The Wolves of Willoughby Chase
Children’s adaptation that’s hard to follow
This article is from 2011.
Joan Aiken’s 1963 novel gets an adaptation that is admirable in its aim to offer children something with a grown-up, unpatronising feel, but falls well short of the mark in its execution.
The story is one of high adventure: feisty young Bonnie and her gentle orphaned cousin, Sylvia, are left in the care of a distant relative employed as a governess when Bonnie’s parents seek warm weather and good health abroad, only to be horrified when she sets about dismissing their loyal servants, treating them cruelly and engineering a plot to seize her employers’ house and assets.
After first being sent to a prison-like orphanage, they embark on an escape to London, where help is finally at hand. Unfortunately there’s simply too much derring-do to fit into these 75 minutes, with the result that the performance feels rushed and clumsy in its struggle to fit in crucial plot elements.
This lack of storytelling skill makes the plot hard to follow, a situation made worse by a tendency towards confusing, noisy ensemble scenes. Exchanges of dialogue often feel awkward and stilted, and there are one or two unforgivable regional accents, but the main fault here lies with characterisation that in its crudeness utterly fails to engage.
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