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Firelight (1997)

In 1838, lovely governess Elisabeth agrees to bear a child of anonymous English landowner, and he will in return pay her father's debt. At birth she, as agreed, gives up the child. Seven ... See full summary »

Director:

William Nicholson
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2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Sophie Marceau ... Elisabeth Laurier
Stephen Dillane ... Charles Godwin
Dominique Belcourt ... Louisa Godwin
Kevin Anderson ... John Taylor
Lia Williams ... Constance
Joss Ackland ... Lord Clare
Sally Dexter Sally Dexter ... Molly Holland
Emma Amos ... Ellen
Maggie McCarthy Maggie McCarthy ... Mrs. Jago
Wolf Kahler ... Sussman
Annabel Giles Annabel Giles ... Amy Godwin
John Flanagan John Flanagan ... Robert Ames
Valerie Minifie Valerie Minifie ... Hannah
Diana Payan Diana Payan ... Mrs. Maidment
John Hodgkinson John Hodgkinson ... Carlo
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Storyline

In 1838, lovely governess Elisabeth agrees to bear a child of anonymous English landowner, and he will in return pay her father's debt. At birth she, as agreed, gives up the child. Seven years later she is hired as governess to a girl on a remote Sussex estate. The father of the girl, Charles Godwin, turns out to be that anonymous landowner. So Elisabeth has to be her own daughter's governess, and she can't reveal the secret of her tie with little Louisa. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Passion has no limits

Genres:

Romance | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexuality and brief strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

UK | USA

Language:

English | French

Release Date:

4 September 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A la luz del fuego See more »

Filming Locations:

Calvados, France See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$236,775, 11 September 1998

Gross USA:

$784,419, 27 December 1998
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Goofs

At least two young men are shown in the South of England in the 1830s with long hair tied back in a queue, a style unknown in that time and place. See more »

Quotes

Elisabeth: [Standing on the Beach Alone; Charles Approaches] Aren't you afraid to be seen with me?
Charles Godwin: There's no one to see.
Elisabeth: I like it here. Just sea and sky and...
Charles Godwin: ...and nothing.
Elisabeth: I like it. Makes me want to shout.
Charles Godwin: Then shout.
ElisabethCharles Godwin: [They look at each other, then they look around to make sure no one's around]
Elisabeth: [Tries to shout, but just ends up laughing] No. Not so easy.
[laughs again]
Charles Godwin: You're very... I didn't expect it to be like this.
[...]
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A truly underrated gem, consider yourself lucky to find it
11 February 2007 | by skinnyjoeymerlinoSee all my reviews

Fantasy book author William Nicholson made his first and so far only effort at movie-direction with this 1997 English Gothic romance based on his own screenplay. Sophie Marceau (the French princess in Braveheart) plays a Swiss governess named Elizabeth in late 1830s England. Desperate to pay a family debt, she sells herself to an anonymous English gentlemen for three days in his efforts to produce an heir for his family. Harsh and uncaring at first, they fall in love, but both have agreed never to see or speak to each other again for the sake of keeping up appearances. Elizabeth conceives a baby girl who is wisked away seconds after birth. Heartbroken, Elizabeth writes letters to "My English Daughter" until she can no longer keep her promise. Seven years after the baby's birth she tracks the child down; now a spoiled brat living on a remote Sussex estate. The daughter acts up as she pines for her usually absent father. Her father's wife has been in a vegetative state for a decade after a riding accident, and even the the daughter knows she is not the real mother. Elizabeth takes a job as the girl's governess to be close to her, unbeknownst to the girl's father. When the father, Charles Godwin, returns from London he is appalled at the mother of his child showing up again in his life as well as the rekindling of a romantic fire he has desperately tried to convince himself is long burnt out. Themes of duty to family, maternal love, and desperate attempts to hold back passion are played out in perpetually foggy and snowswept landscapes and around fireplaces in the Godwin Victorian mansion.

Performances by the actors are uniformly excellent. Marceau and Stephen Dillane as Charles Godwin share a chemistry rarely captured on film; but also look for Dominique Belcourt as the daughter; Lia Williams as Godwin's long-suffering sister-in-law; Kevin Anderson as the visiting American who falls for Elizabeth; and veteran British actor Joss Ackland as Godwin's father whose self-indulgent hedonism dooms the family to ruin. It's never apparent that this is Nicholson's first time out as a director. Nic Morris's cinematography of the English countryside and Marceu's exquisitely beautiful face lit by firelight is something to see, and Christopher Gunning's string-laden score is dramatic and over-the-top which it really should be.

Although rife with gray and icy colors, painful family obligation, stark settings, heartbreak, euthanasia, held back emotions, and rigid social mores; the underlying theme of the Firelight is that true love conquers all. It's never really gotten the attention it deserves.

Released by Disney's Hollywood pictures, the movie played briefly in American arthouses back in 1998 and was released on VHS the next year to very little fanfare. Disillusioned, Nicholson never directed a picture again, although he hit paydirt when he co-wrote the script to Ridley Scott's Gladiator in 2000. Firelight has been sporadically available since then on demand on the Encore movie cable channel. A Region 0 bare-bones DVD was released in Hong Kong of all places; it's available on Amazon.com and ebay. If you find a copy, it's definitely worth purchasing.


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