Alfonso Cuaron's adaptation of the Frances Hodgson Burnett classic, the second film version in the last decade, is a brilliantly stylized reimagining of the well-known children's story. Sarah Crewe (Liesel Matthews) is the ten-year-old daughter of a wealthy businessman who places her in a New York boarding school during WWI, after he's called to fight in India. The girl quickly makes a place for herself in this upscale world through her gift for storytelling, but trouble lurks just around the corner. Cuaron has chosen to lessen the realism and harshness of the story, using elaborately designed sets to create an otherworldly atmosphere, while remaining faithful to its overall meaning. Liesel Matthews makes a plucky and intelligent heroine, and comedy veteran Eleanor Bron is suitably chilling as the school's snobbish headmistress. While writers Richard LaGravenese and Elizabeth Chandler have rendered the characters with considerable subtlety, there's nothing here that couldn't be understood by a child.
by Michael Costello review