Feast of July (1995) Poster

(1995)

User Reviews

Review this title
8 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
4/10
Is that a name or a losing hand at Scrabble?
JamesHitchcock10 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
H E Bates is an author whose reputation has declined somewhat in recent years. During his lifetime, and for about two decades after his death in 1974, he was one of the most popular authors in Britain. Interest in him reached a peak in the early 1990s when his "Larkin Family" novels were serialised on television as "The Darling Buds of May". In my view, those are far from being his best works, but the series was a huge success, tapping as it did into a vein of rural nostalgia and introducing to public view Catherine Zeta Jones, the most beautiful young actress that Britain had produced for many years. Since then, however, that interest has declined and, apart from the Larkin books and one or two wartime stories, his works are now largely out of print.

"The Feast of July" is one of those neglected works. Its setting is a small town in Northamptonshire during the late nineteenth century. The mood, however, is not one of nostalgia. Like Hardy's "Tess of the d'Urbervilles", the book deals with a young unmarried mother who is abandoned by her seducer and whose child dies in infancy. While searching for her lover, the heroine, Bella Ford, arrives as a homeless and friendless stranger in town, where she is rescued and befriended by Ben Wainwright, a shoemaker, and his family. (Shoemaking is the principal industry of the area). Bella is welcomed into the family and becomes like a daughter to them. Ben and his wife have three sons, and, after brief dalliances with two of the boys, she eventually finds love with the third, Con. The climax of the novel comes on the Feast of July, a traditional festival in the area, celebrating the first crops of the new season. (Although the film kept Bates' title, the importance of the Feast is never explained, so the title might seem baffling to those who have not read the book). Bella's lover Arch Wilson reappears in her life, provoking a confrontation that ends tragically.

There had been no feature films based on Bates' writings since "Dulcima" and "The Triple Echo" in the early seventies, but there were two in 1995, doubtless inspired by the success of "The Darling Buds…". I have never seen "A Month by the Lake", but I cannot say that the film version of "The Feast of July" does justice to the original novel, which is a fine piece of writing. Bates had a deep love of the countryside and his novels, whether set in his native East Midlands or in Kent, where he lived in later life, are characterised by a strong sense of place and by remarkable powers of description. In "The Feast of July" and many of his other novels, the beauty of nature in its changing moods is described with lyrical intensity.

To make a successful film adaptation of this novel, the director needed to find a visual equivalent to Bates' lyrical prose style, but this is something which Christopher Menaul failed to do. There is no sense of place; references to Salisbury and standard rustic Mummerset accents suggest that the film takes place in Wiltshire, but the hilly landscape we see bears little resemblance to that county (and even less to the flat agricultural scenery of Northamptonshire). Nor is there any sense of visual beauty; Menaul clearly thought that a tragic story needed to be told in a sombre manner, so the photography is dull and muted and the predominant colours are greys and browns. (Bates, however, deliberately set the climax of his story in midsummer because he wanted to increase the poignancy of his tragic love-triangle by contrasting it with the splendours of the natural setting).

The other great virtue of Bates' novel is the urgency with which he develops his story, giving an impression of events rushing to a headlong climax and making the culminating tragedy seem all the more terrible and inevitable. This is another quality which goes missing in the film, which is slow-moving compared to the novel. The ending of the film, which is not the same as the one Bates wrote, seemed particularly drawn out. It is unfortunate that the film omits some of the book's good qualities, but keeps its flawed structure. Bates never really resolved the tension between the first half of the novel, in which the main theme is sibling rivalry between the three brothers, and the second, in which the main theme is the Bella/Con/Arch triangle. The film never resolves this either, so we are led to believe- wrongly- that it is the rivalry between the brothers that will lead to tragedy, especially after Con and Jedd come to blows over Bella.

The acting is rather dull; Nastassia Kinski's performance in Polanski's "Tess" remains vividly in my mind, even though it is many years since I last saw that film, whereas, although I saw "The Feast of July" only a few days ago, about the only thing I remember about Embeth Davidtz is her oddly spelled name. (Is that a name or a losing hand at Scrabble?) Bella (like Tess) is a difficult part to play- on the one hand she is a tragic victim, on the other she must be fascinating enough to captivate several men. Ms Davidtz never convinced either as a tragic heroine or as a femme fatale. None of the other characters made much impression, except perhaps Gemma Jones as the sharp-tongued Mrs Wainwright. This is not a film which will do much to restore Bates' reputation. 4/10
5 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
A nominal, romanticized lite drama.
=G=26 January 2001
"Feast..." is a well crafted, somewhat staged and romanticized drama about a woman, Bella (Davidtz), who wanders into the lives of a 19th century agrarian English family with 3 adult sons changing their lives forever. The film offers good performances by all, represents rural life of the time well, is artfully presented, and avoids extreme excursions giving the film a sort of perfect Disney-esque feel. Davidtz graces the screen throughout though Chaplin offers perhaps the best performance. A good watch for those in need of some easy-going romantic period drama.
9 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Summary: Beautifully filmed good story
khatcher-24 July 2001
In an almost quasi-Victorian style, and most certainly with a true Victorian setting, H.E.Bates' novel has been turned into a fine cinematographic production. Excellent interpretations by all concerned, not only the leading actors, lushly backed up by some truly splendid photography, this is a film which appeals to the senses of perceptive viewers.

Unfortunately the music score is not up to much, or perhaps I should say that you should not see this film expecting great orchestral and vocal music as Zbigniew Preisner has already given us in the trilogy `Trois Couleurs' or especially in the previous film `La Double Vie de Véronique' (1991).

H.E.Bates was first a serious novelist, giving us such splendid titles as `The Jacaranda Tree' and `The Purple Plain', both based on his wartime experiences in Burma (now called something like Myaungyi), and evidently `Feast of July' falls into this category. Unfortunately he then turned his hand to light frivolous reading with would-be attempts at hilarity, and he simply fell out of any serious reading list. Thoroughly recommend these two novels as they paint an authentic picture of people with real feelings and genuine jealousies and mistrust. Perhaps it is this characterisation that has been soundly transformed into a visual experience that makes `Feast of July' a thoroughly recommendable film. Near 7 out of 10.
9 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
A Dumb Girl Played Quite Convincingly
alicecbr12 November 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Usually the heroine of a piece is smart and beautiful. How nice to see a movei where the usual doesn't apply. This poor child who miscarries at the beginning of the movie never seems to learn. Of course, preventing pregnancies must have been very difficult back then.

But she falls in love with the dumbest of the boys, out of pity as much as anything else, I suppose. However, she is responsible indirectly for his death........seeking the rogue out who impregnated her, and then telling the retarded kid about it.

I found the movie unique, and loved the wonderful English town life represented herein. The woman who played the mother of these boys did a great job, as she played a religious person, who loves her boys and wants the best for them. When she attacks the poor dumb girl who causes all the mess, you know exactly why. By taking this kid in, the mother has indirectly and unconsciously brought on the death of her baby. Similar to giving your child a motorcycle.
3 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Love and Tragedy
gazineo-115 May 2001
Sophisticated and well paced love story between a disgraceful young woman and an insecure and neurotic young peasant man, adorned with England last century background. The movie goes on swiftly, although the first part is a little slow and heavy handed by the direction. Chaplin and Davitz are good in the lead roles and the climax (the last scene, to be exact)cause a strong and impressive impact on the viewer. I give this a six.
5 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Not given enough credit. Lovely story-telling.
dapplegrey1316 May 2011
A lovely film of a tragic story... of sympathy and small, seemingly small impulses that eventually lead to ruin and horror.

Our heroine is a poor girl who's been seduced by a handsome, charming man who leads her to believe he loves her and will marry her. And after a month or two, he has vanished. She's left pregnant and decides to walk to the town where he said was his home (about 30 miles away). By then, she is very pregnant, it's rough terrain in terrible winter weather. She has no nourishment nor money. She miscarries along the way and the baby is formed, but dead. It's a tragedy. After a few more days, she makes it to the town where he said he lives, but no one knows him. Thankfully, she finds a kind man who takes her into his family's home. He can see she's young, ill, and desperate for a place to stay. The man and his wife have three handsome, unmarried sons who are living at home with them. When the poor girl has had a few days of rest and recovery, she gets cleaned up and dressed. It turns out she is quite pretty and charming. Slowly, tensions begin to mount as one by one, the young men make it known to her that they want to court her.

In her kindness, and mannerly ways, (and in a state of confused grieving, too, I'd say), she doesn't make herself clear enough to each of the young men. There are some misunderstandings....

The youngest son, Con, played beautifully by Ben Chaplin, is painfully shy and awkward. He stutters some and doesn't seem all that bright. But his strong desire for more in life, his jealousy of his brothers and his family in general, his overwhelming passion for HER is as clear as a bright blue sky. Eventually, he gets up the nerve to propose to her and she accepts him. They are floating on clouds, telling all the townspeople of their upcoming wedding and their joy.

Unfortunately, their happiness doesn't last long, as the cad who abandoned her is just around the corner and they are about to have a fateful encounter with him.

I won't go any further, but let me tell you that Ben Chaplin's performance is haunting. Haunting. You can see the anxiety, frustration, temper, and his impulsiveness in his entire manner. His passion for her is so strong, it seems he will just explode with it.

For steamy kissing scenes and almost-sex scenes without nudity, they don't get any better than this. I caught my breath a couple of times and may have moaned! Embeth Davis and Ben Chaplin were beautiful together. Simply beautiful throughout the film.

It's a very well-told story that seemed so real-to-life. It's still timely, or should I say "timeless". If you like historical romance and period pieces, don't miss it. It's lovely.
12 out of 14 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Yummy good love story.
FlossieD23 November 1998
Beautiful scenery and details, authentic costumes and language. After six viewings, Ben Chaplin still lights up the screen.
4 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
What I Thought
tracee12 December 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Sunday afternoon, I was flipping channels...looking for something new to watch...since I'd watched Wyatt Earp about 3 times that day. I stumble across this nice story. This girl is living with a family of three brothers and she seems to have a secret to hide. I recognize Ben Chaplin from The Truth About Cats and Dogs and I say let me watch the rest of this. He's kind of quiet and sweet and slow. Next, he's going to marry this girl after it seemed like she might end up with one of the other brothers...since Con (Ben C.) is so, well, interesting. Before they get married, he's slamming a rock into the head of a guy Bella (the girl) used to know way back in another town. I thought this was going to be a sweet story with a guy who probably wouldn't get the girl nowadays...getting the girl!!!! I was really p.o.'ed when he turned into a killer!!!!!!!! But I suppose throughout the film, we did get a glimpse of his violent tendency developing into a semi-insanity. Overall, I liked this movie because it was really intriguing and held my interest..which isn't necessarily difficult to do. Later on I watched it from the beginning to the end and decided that I do like the movie. Ben Chaplin is an excellent stutterer!!!!!
1 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed