First-time feature director Tim Fywell brings a certain literate sensibility from his BBC TV work to "I Capture the Castle," which itself is based on a 1948 novel by British writer Dodie Smith, who later penned "The Hundred and One Dalmatians." Despite its high-class producer imprimatur (David Parfitt won an Oscar for "Shakespeare in Love"), as captured here the tale seems less aimed for the older art-house crowd than for teenaged girls eager for discerning and intelligent drama--in the same "serious" way that, say, Franco Zeffirelli's "Romeo and Juliet" was; however, an inexplicable R rating--for a momentary scene in which Cassandra's bohemian-painter stepmother ("Siren's" Tara FitzGerald) disrobes to better experience an evening countryside rain--will bar most of that prime distaff demographic.
What could bring a specialized buzz to "I Capture the Castle" is the performance by Garai, whose plain but passionate face proves fertile ground for Fywell's camera and whose voice seems perfectly attuned to Smith's text as adapted by screenwriter Heidi Thomas (who paired with Fywell on the BBC's "Madame Bovary"). Although much of her character's activity is reactive, Garai provides the film's heart; every key action or decision of her family or the fellows seems to seep through her and become imprinted on her soul, and her most effective work occurs in the silent registrations of their lighter or darker moralities on Garai's argent face. Starring Romola Garai, Bill Nighy, Rose Byrne, Tara FitzGerald, Henry Thomas and Marc Blucas. Directed by Tim Fywell. Written by Heidi Thomas. Produced by David Parfitt. A Samuel Goldwyn release. Drama. Rated R for brief nudity. Running time: 113 min