Wild and woolly southwest England of the late 1600s is the setting for this tale of action, revenge, and star-crossed love. Based on R.D. Blackmore's popular 1869 novel, the film stars 18-year-old Amelia Warner as Lorna Doone. Beautiful and compassionate, she is the only good Doone in a family of bad Doones who ride out from their swamp fortress to pillage and terrorize the Exmoor countryside. Cousin Carver Doone (Aiden Gillen), the nastiest Doone of all and the heir-apparent of the Doone dynasty, covets her and means to marry her. But when Lorna falls in love with outsider John Ridd (Richard Coyle), a farmer whose father Carver had murdered, the Ridds and the Doones get down to some serious feuding à la Romeo and Juliet and the Hatfields and McCoys. Though the cardboard characters come in two shades -- black and white, with no hints of ambiguous gray -- the acting and the script aptly distill the spirit of the 600-page book, and the cinematography captures the unspoiled coombs and copses of Devonshire, where author Blackmore grew up and well knew the ways of the people and their land. In addition, the action sequences -- featuring charging horsemen, smoking muskets, and hand-to-hand combat -- are well staged. Although the outcome of the story is predictable, a well kept secret about Lorna's past is not. Because there is no heavy-duty gore or profanity in the film -- and no display of wayward sexuality, only chaste kisses and pledges of undying love -- families and teachers will find it suitable for children. Lorna Doone, a co-production of the BBC and the A&E Network, is a worthwhile film that helps prove classic literature remains one of filmdom's best wellheads of good entertainment.
by Mike Cummings review