Writer-director Julian Fellowes has transferred his familiar obsession with characters trapped in the British class system to the children's adventure genre, in his faithful adaptation of "The Chimneys of Green Knowe". I must confess that I did not read the book as a child, so I take the fidelity on faith and the overall style of the film, which is "heritage" film-making in the manner of THE RAILWAY CHILDREN without any vulgar American influence. The movie looks and feels traditional and heartfelt: indeed, it got a little dusty in the theatre toward the end.
The plot occurs in wartime England, both World War Two and the Napoleonic wars, hence the unhappily vague title of the film. In 1944 a young boy called Tolly is sent to stay with his Granny in her old manor house while he waits for news of his father, Missing In Action. Granny fears she will have to sell the house, and the movie has that air of pining for a lifestyle that can no longer be maintained, a little like Brideshead. The family jewels were, you see, lost in the fire that destroyed half the house in the early nineteenth century. Tolly periodically escapes into this world and meets kind Captain Oldelknow, his lovely daughter Susan, and her helper, an escaped slave boy called Jacob. Together they fight the evil butler Caxton and Susan's resentful brother Sefton. Along the way, Julian Fellowes draws a parralel between Mrs Oldeknow of C19, shut out by her social betters, and Tolly's mother, deemed "common" by Granny.
FROM TIME TO TIME is a charming little movie, well-made and well-acted by a sterling British cast. It's not going to set the world alight, but as honest family entertainment it works just fine.
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