The Woman in White (1997)

Genres - Mystery, Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Gothic Film, Period Film  |   Run Time - 125 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Mike Cummings

This production's award-winning cinematography and lighting subtly and unobtrusively support its spooky story with gossamer fog, shadowy corridors, ethereal faces, and moonlit nightscapes that announce what Shakespeare's witches did centuries before, "something wicked this way comes." But who or what is the wicked interloper? This film eventually reveals all, bit by bit, while viewers chew their nails and root for the two superb actresses in the central roles: Tara Fitzgerald as Marian Fairlie and Justine Waddell as Marian's half-sister, Laura. The sisters are beautiful, intelligent, vulnerable, and fiercely loyal to each other, making them the perfect darlings with whom viewers can identify. But it is their ability to manufacture suspense and urgency through a simple worried glance or a nervous hand reaching out for support that makes their acting convincing. In the roles of the villains, James Wilby (Sir Percival Glyde) and Simon Callow (Count Fosco) are wonderfully detestable as they machinate their way from seemingly benevolent chaps to quintessential rats. And Ian Richardson is marvelous as an eccentric old fart. The plot is complex, full of twists and turns, including dark secrets and a grave that may contain the wrong body. Woman in White is an excellent production that probes the meaning of love, greed, loyalty, and cruelty, while unmasking the normal as abnormal -- or even evil. The film is based loosely on the classic 1860 William Wilkie Collins novel of the same name.