One of the sweeter productions from the Brits, I cannot help but think From Time to Time, an underrated gem, never did reach its full potential.
The Oldknow family name is facing ruin. This is all thanks to the beauty, Maria (Carice van Houten) who snags the Captain’s attention, and his indulgence of her. Not a proper English woman, Maria’s heritage is one without fortune. As a result some twenty years and two children later, she still fights for acceptance as the wife of Captain Oldknow (Hugh Bonneville).
Gone a great deal of the time, the Captain is often unaware of what goes on in his household. Unable to prevent his wife’s gambling habits, he fiercely protects his young daughter (Eliza Hope Bennett). A determined child, who was born blind. Then there is his sulking son, Sefton (Douglas Booth). The boy is a disappointment to his father and feeds off the misguidance of the family’s conniving butler Caxton (Dominic West). Little do any of them know the influence and distress he is yet to create.
This was one of those films that did not release in a timely manner in the states and subsequently passed in and out of importance. I’d read reviews, and did wish to see it at the time. More recently I happened to spot it at the rental store, and seized the opportunity to finally get a look at it. The end result is simple in that I do not regret renting it but it also disappoints. So many of its quaint vignette plot lines make it hard to really appreciate every nuance or point the story itself is trying to make.
Nearly all is forgiven by the appearance of a phenomenal cast! Before Downton Abbey, Hugh and Maggie star in this little movie, although they share no scenes together. Other cast members include Pauline Collins and Timothy Spall, and it’s fun to see Booth in something prior to his role as Pip in the latest Great Expectations. British productions are amazing, but it’s fun to watch just to make a game of finding the familiar faces. The costumes are pretty. The prettiest appear in the past story line instead of the present given it took place in a more carefree era that was accustomed to pretty things.
There is a message here that even today, many will relate to. I think at its heart, the story tries to teach us that although it’s painful to say good-bye this day does have to come – for all of us. Though heartbreaking, healing does come. Tolly’s connection to the past teaches him something about the present, and this is a priceless lesson. In addition to the message, From Time to Time is also pretty to look at. The sprawling old family mansion at the center of the story gives the illusion of mystery, and the past paints a pretty picture of what it once was. All warm tones and colorful blossoms. I like the contrast in seasons, an element that shows the differential in time periods.
This may not be an ending we expect of the script, but flaws and all, it leaves us wishing for an epilogue. But then, it wouldn’t have the flair of the Julian Fellowes we have come to know.