Rated PG - Running time: 1:38 - Released 10/24/97

This romantic tale, directed by Charles Sturridge, has some interesting special effects and some nice moments. It is a cute, whimsical story about two girls, Elsie Wright (Florence Hoath) and Frances Griffiths (Elizabeth Earl), who discover and befriend a community of fairies, and photograph them. When the photos come to the attention of the press, a media circus ensues, involving such famous personalities as Harry Houdini (played by Harvey Keitel) and Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes (played by Peter O'Toole). These are all warm and heartfelt performances, as is that of Elsie's mother, played by Phoebe Nicholls.

Unfortunately, there are a few elements which tend to undermine the potential success of this film. One is the fact that for such a light-hearted subject, the director chose a terribly dark and dismal presentation. The settings are dreary throughout, and even when the girls are frolicking with their tiny friends in the woods, there is an almost Dickensian grimness. This is not without reason. Both girls have lost cherished members of their families and Elsie's household is clutched by grief. Still, it would seem that their (and our) spirits could be lifted by their friendship with the fairies, but only Earl is allowed to portray Frances with a reasonable whimsy.

Secondly, although the film credits a long list of actors who play the fairies, we hardly ever see them on film, and there is virtually no characterization whatsoever. The girls call to them by name (implying that they have spoken), but we never witness any conversations; only swarms of dragonfly-like creatures flitting by and an occasional close-up of one or two of them. Perhaps the author wanted to preserve the sense of mystery associated with these creatures, but frankly, this film could have used a little more fairies and a lot less gloom. There is an intriguing sequence in which three pivotal events are happenning simultaneously, but I'm afraid it's too little too late. **½

Copyright 1997 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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