Tuesday, February 10, 2009

2/7/09: The Chalk Garden (1964)

By all rights, I should have saved up my accumulated Hayley Mills movies and made a special theme week of them. But I'd already used up one of them (Endless Night) for George Sanders Week, and I could no longer stave off my growing curiosity to watch this adaptation of Enid Bagnold's 1955 play. Made nearly a decade later, the film version follows Hayley's earliest family films produced by Disney (Pollyanna, The Parent Trap, Summer Magic) and could be considered her first real film specifically for adults—she was 18 by the time this film was released.

It's incredible to think I was already a big Hayley Mills fan without having seen this masterpiece. Touching, insightful and relevatory, it tells the story of Laurel, a troubled teen with major mommy issues (Mills); her grandmother (Edith Evans), who has family issues of her own; and the mysterious caretaker who has been brought in to tame the girl (Deborah Kerr). There are skeletons hidden in closets and buried emotions that rise to the surface as Bagnold's intriguing tale unfolds—I was drawn in from the get-go, riveted throughout, and frankly lucky to have a handkerchief in reach by the final scene. The entire cast performs flawlessly; Evans was nominated for an Oscar, and Hayley is mesmerizing. Rating: 5/5.

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