The Wings of the Dove (1997) starring Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache, Alex Jennings, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Gambon, Elizabeth McGovern directed by Iain Softley Movie Review

The Wings of the Dove (1997)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Helena Bonham Carter in The Wings of the Dove (1997)

Up Town Girl

Following the death of her mother Kate Croy (Helena Bonham Carter) has lived under the guardianship of Aunt Maude (Charlotte Rampling) who is determined that not only does Kate become a refined lady but she marries a suitable, wealthy man as in Lord Mark (Alex Jennings) even though Kate is not in love with him. Kate is in fact in love with Merton Densher (Linus Roache), a journalist from several rungs below her rung on the social ladder and who Aunt Maude has said that if she marries him she will disinherit her. So Kate comes up with a plan having met the ailing American Milly Theale (Alison Elliott) who has no one in her life but plenty of money. The plan is for Merton to marry Milly and then when she dies and having inherited her wealth for him to return to marry Kate.

I have a simple philosophy when it comes to movies, I watch to be entertained. Now entertainment is a very personal thing, what entertains me might not entertain someone else and over the years I have found myself at odds with many over period dramas as rarely have they entertained me and grabbed my attention. But there is something about "The Wings of the Dove", the look, the cast, the pacing which make it a lot more entertaining than most period dramas, shedding the stuffiness which usually provides a road block to my enjoyment.

Linus Roache in The Wings of the Dove (1997)

Now having said all that I doubt it will come as a shock when I say I haven't read the Henry James novel from which this adapted and as such have no idea how true to the original prose it remains although I am aware that it shifts the drama forwards by 10 years. But the thing is that for those like me who just want to be entertained it is simple to follow; up town girl falling for a down town man and plotting a way to marry him despite her guardian's attempt to have her marry someone else. You can guess when it comes to that plan which involves a very sick and very wealthy American things are not going to go as simply as Kate would hope for.

Much of why it works is down to the look and everything from the sets to the costumes as well as the make up looks right but also interesting rather than stuffy which often is the case with period dramas which look like they have been shot in a museum. But there is also the acting and Helena Bonham Carter once again shows what a fantastic actress she is playing a beautiful but fascinating woman who comes to life in Bonham's hands thanks to her ability to emote her feelings through looks rather than words. Yes it certainly helps that Bonham Carter is surrounded by an impressive cast which includes Charlotte Rampling and Michael Gambon but it is Carter as Kate who draws you in to this drama.

What this all boils down to is that "The Wings of the Dove" is for me one of those period dramas which despite my often disappointment in the genre just works. It isn't perfect but for those like me who don't get hooked on stuffy dramas it is nicely acted and well paced which helps to draw you in to the easy to understand story.