From Time to Time (2009) – A Duel Timeline BBC Production

From Time to Time

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 tale unravels through the eyes of young Tolly (Alex Etel) some years later. A descendant of the Captain’s family, Tolly’s England is embroiled in WWII. Only recently does he learn his father is missing in action. Desperate to find work, his mother sends Tolly to her husband’s old family estate and his grandmother (Maggie Smith). Tolly knows little of his grandmother give she was unhappy with her son’s choice of a bride. One thing he does remember is his father speaking fondly of his childhood home, and Tolly is desperate to hang onto memories.
Once at the estate, strange things begin to happen, and Tolly finds himself back in time uncovering the scandals of his family’s past.

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.

Penned by screenplay writer Julian Fellowes, much of this movie is true to his unique style – it is quite easy to spot his signature approach. The script isn’t bad (Maggie Smith in particular has some good zingers) but it’s not properly put to the screen. The mystery keeps us intrigued as does the back-and-forth between eras but I am not sure that alone was enough. Fellowes also directs and produces this one, and I think lacks in the end. There isn’t that spark it needs to be a truly “great” or unforgettable movie to watch over and over again. Plus, somehow the pace is terribly lacking. As a result, the film drags more than it should have given the potential its plot had.

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.

About Rissi JC

amateur graphic designer. confirmed bookaholic. bubbl’r enthusiast. critical thinker. miswesterner. social media coordinator. writer.


  1. Wow, I have never even heard of this… Which is weird because I love Jullian Fellows, Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonville, and Douglas Booth… Just added it to the queue… ;)

  2. It's been ages since I've seen this one as well – I remember liking it, but it was more "somber" than I expected, I think…

  3. Charity – it is sweet and enjoyable but… there was something lacking.

    Tory – fans of British productions or Julian Fellowes should see this one because his style as a writer definitely shows through. I know right: Isn't that a fabulous cast!?


    Natalie – yep, you should. :-) If you like Fellowes work, it is a sweet little movie.

    Ruth – that is a good way to put it. This movie never seemed to reach its full potential and is rather somber. Still, I don't regret seeing it, and would probably watch it again, flaws and all. :-)

  4. It was a title that didn't get much publication here in the states, Rachel, so it isn't surprising that there are few people who heard of it. For the most part though, it is a really sweet little film.


  5. I don't think you are alone, Rachel – this was one that kind of flew "under the radar." I hope you see it and enjoy it. I'd watch this one again, it just wasn't my most fave – definitely can tell Fellowes wrote the script having seeing his other handiwork.

    Thank you so much for stopping in – I hope you do again sometime. It was lovely to "meet" you. :-)

  6. I really like this one, but completely agree that when I first watched it there was just a tiny something missing – I recon it's one that grows on you when you know what to expect :)

  7. I did too, Sarah BUT yes, it did lack… something. I suspect you are right that it is one that would grow on the viewer and indeed, I would definitely watch it again because all around, it was just darn sweet!

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