From Time to Time (movie review)

July 10, 2012 Timothy Spall 0

Category: Family movie (historical; fantasy)
Movie source: Netflix
We recently watched From Time to Time, a 2009 British television movie based on L. M. Boston’s The Treasure of Green Knowe.  My daughter and I love the Green Knowe series, and we tend to become a bit irked whenever a movie deviates too much from the book, so we were a little apprehensive at the start.
We needn’t have worried.  From Time to Time does take a few liberties with the book(s), most notably in setting the twentieth-century portions during World War II and revising Tolly’s age and his relationship with his grandmother, Mrs Oldknowe.  But the movie stays faithful to the spirit of the book, and the early nineteenth-century events are portrayed faithfully for the most part.
As you’ll have guessed from the above, From Time to Time is… well, it’s both a ghost story and a time-travel story.  Tolly is sent to his grandmother’s ancient house, Green Knowe, while his mother goes to London seeking news of his father, who is missing in action. (This is one of the deviations from the original book.)  His relationship with his grandmother is awkward at first, since she and his father and mother have been estranged since his parents’ marriage.  But as Tolly begins seeing and even interacting with people from Green Knowe’s past, and he tries to solve a mystery from the past, he and his grandmother draw closer together.

Maggie Smith as Mrs Oldknowe

The cast is very good, particularly the incomparable Maggie Smith as Granny Oldknowe and relative newcomer Alex Etel (The Water Horse) as Tolly.  Timothy Spall is well-cast but under-utilized as Boggis the gardener.  Eliza Bennett (Meggie from Inkheart) does very well as the blind Susan.

Kwayedza Kureya as Jacob, Alex Etel as Tolly, and Eliza Bennett as Susan (From Time to Time)
[ Spoiler alert!]

The bittersweet ending may come as a slight shock, particularly to American audiences used to happy endings to their family movies.  That, the ghosts, and a potentially frightening house fire sequence make me hesitate to recommend this movie for very young children.  But if your children are old enough to read the Green Knowe books (or have them read to them), From Time to Time is a quietly magical treat.

Available through Netflix and Amazon Instant Video

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