18 April 2015

The Magic of Belle Isle (starring Morgan Freeman)

I assume that Amazon recommended this to me because I’ve enjoyed other films starring Morgan Freeman. I put it on my wishlist a long time ago and was pleased to be given it for Christmas, although a little startled to see that - other than the title - the DVD case is all in German.

However, English is listed as a language at the back, and thankfully it was easy to set the film to be in its original language when we decided to watch this with our twenty-something son at the weekend. We had no idea what to expect, but hoped for something lightweight, mildly amusing, and, if possible, uplifting.

We were not disappointed.

Freeman stars as the cranky Monty, a widowed writer who spends his life in a wheelchair and drinks too much. His nephew brings him to a small house where he’s going to stay during the summer, in the hope of persuading him to start writing again. Monty isn’t particularly keen, particularly when he learns that a large dog called Ringo goes with the house, but he doesn’t have much choice.

Next door lives Charlotte (Virginia Madsen) who is a recently divorced mother with three daughters. They have come to the area for the summer; perhaps for good. The oldest daughter Willow (Madline Carroll) is a moody teenager who would rather be with her father. The youngest, Flora (Nicolette Pierini) who also misses her father very much, is only seven. And there’s nine-year-old Finnegan (Emma Fuhrmann) who is thoughtful, imaginative, and would really like to be a writer…

The story, such as it is, follows the interactions between these people over the next few weeks. As the children gradually realise that their father is not reliable, and isn’t going to come and see them, they come to rely more on Monty - and we find that his crankiness is mostly a mask, with a soft-hearted and gentle man inside, embittered by circumstances and grieving his beloved wife.

Belle Isle works its magic, both on the people in the story and on its audience - it was an absolutely delightful story. There was some humour, even some laugh-aloud moments when Monty converses with the not terribly intelligent dog. There are some deeply poignant moments, too, and there’s some maturing for the teenage Willow, as she starts to see other people’s points of view rather than just her own.

I found myself totally caught up in the story, the only slight jar coming from the rather slow and ‘odd’ Carl (Ash Christian) who is probably meant to be amusing, but made me feel rather sad, at least until Monty starts treating him with respect.

Overall, though, we were utterly captivated. Not a film for those who like a lot of plot or fast action; this is slow-moving and character-based. It was absolutely what we wanted to see, and one that I will undoubtedly watch again. Highly recommended.

Note that this has been re-released in the UK with the rather less memorable title of ‘Once More’.

Rated PG. There’s some minor bad language, and a great deal of drinking, but then it’s not the kind of film to appeal to anyone younger than about twelve anyway.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's DVD Reviews

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