Film Review: THE WOMAN IN BLACK

Directed by James Watkins
Written by Jane Goldman based on the book by Susan Hill
Starring Daniel Radcliffe, Ciaran Hinds, Janet McTeer, Misha Handley

I saw this movie as a play in London in 1995 and remember enjoying it quite a bit. The part played by Daniel Radcliffe in the film was played by an actor in his forties and his maturity gave a gravitas to the play that this movie did not enjoy. It is all too easy to scare a schoolboy, an age that Radcliffe has not yet escaped. This was one of the many things that sabotaged this movie for me.

PLOT: Arthur Kipps , the sole parent of a four- year old son, is sent by his firm to search the mansion of its recently dead occupant for important papers to settle the estate. Immediately the townspeople of the village surrounding the estate are on guard, not even wanting to give Kipps a bed for the night. Local lore has it that a ghost haunts the mansion, mourning for her dead son. And a new presence in the village can only stir up trouble. The ghost takes the life of village children when angered. (Wouldn’t you think the townspeople might consider leaving the village?) But Kipps finally gets himself to the mansion and spends most of the last hour wandering around and being scared.

I see from my program this was a two-person play. And although we have more actors here, it really is Radcliffe’s movie and he is not up to it. I am not sure that any actor could carry this screenplay though. It purports to open the play up by adding characters and locations, but it doesn’t use them well. The delightfully bucolic yet scary village should have been a major player in the movie, but once seen, we seldom go there again.

The best scenes seemed to take place when more mature actors like Hinds and McTeer lent their support. The audience we saw this with was composed mostly of teenage girls and they screamed at the appropriate times and applauded at the end, mistakenly. I think they misunderstood the events.

This was not a good role for Radcliffe to choose to break out of his Harry Potter days. Not recommended.

Patti
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