18 July 1999 | Klio
Brilliant but disturbing
A coming-of-age story -- for once, about a girl rather than the usual run of little men. Stella is just turned sixteen and has joined the backstage crew of a small theatre company in post-war Liverpool. Her sadness and loneliness lead her to imaginary phone calls with the mother she's lost, a longing for the father she doesn't know, and longing for love. She's flawed, spirited, growing and changing. She goes through all the difficulties of a teenage girl encountering teenage boys, falling into infatuations, and looking for some adult to pattern her life on or the guidance to make her own way....
It's a wonderful film until it takes a peculiar turn and becomes more the story of Alan Rickman's character, the talented but unbalanced character actor brought in to take on the role of Captain Hook in "Peter Pan." The first two thirds of the film are highly recommended; the ending simply leaves me disturbed -- but whenever I have a chance to see the movie again, it's hard to resist. Georgina Cates does a fine job, Alan Rickman is in good form; Hugh Grant is fine in his role, but his role was less significant than I expected -- his character is mainly important in how Stella sees him and in how it affects her passage into emotional adulthood. Stella's passage into sexual adulthood is the most distressing turn of all, and leaves me wondering whether I can like a film that makes this choice (and shifts its focus from the young woman who was at its center to the adult man who doesn't appear until midway through).