I had really high hopes for this film, with it being directed by one of my favorites, Guillermo del Toro, and a cast of well known accomplished actors, I was rearing to go with the spooky and dark romance. Alas, I felt this film did not quite hit the mark, falling a bit short here and there.
For the main characters, Edith is the center of the story here, literally the center of the cover for the film. She meets many of the physical desired characteristics in the Victorian Era, pale skin, light colored eyes, long flowing blonde hair, and a small frame. These also give a visual of how young, innocent, and naive she is with the contrast to the darker colors and physical attributes of the other major characters. Unlike most women in her age group she is less focused on finding a husband and more focused on finding her place in the world as a serious writer. Of course she dreams of finding love and happily ever after, however thus far not many have turned her head enough to consider, with the small possible exception of an old family friend. When Thomas crashes into her world, doting on her manuscript, talking about spirits and odd things as are her interests, she finds herself slowly falling for him. Her father is not the most happy about his as he doesn’t trust the Englishman and his sister.
Through events however, Edith ends up marrying Thomas and taken away to his crumbling home. There she is for the most part utterly alone with the exception of her husband, his sister, a few workers, and the strange dark spirits who seem to haunt her at night. She plays the part of trying to be a good doting wife, yet being considered rather young and sheltered, she doesn’t seem to notice the danger and oddities around her as soon as one may think they should. As a character is has some development, she shows her curiosity and fear rather well, and as the center of the story it mostly focuses on her. As a character I’m still unsure if she is likable, however you do here and there feel sympathy for her as she goes through what she does in the story. Near the end of the movie she has the most development and change of character.
Thomas is an Englishman with a business venture, his land that belongs to his family has a strange red clay and he is trying to find money to build a contraption that would help unearth this clay, that would put his family business back in the up and up. Quickly he takes an interest in Edith, she is intelligent, witty, and girlish. Through his own ways, he weds Edith and takes her to his home. In the beginning he is doting, thoughtful, and tends to her. However there is an oddity about him when she tries to get intimate or pushes for more information about his past or the mansion they now reside in. You can tell he cares for her, yet perhaps his aloofness is just because he is working so hard on getting his machine to work. With his dark hair, dark clothes, and dark housing, Edith seems a small light in a shadowed place, as if she doesn’t belong.
Without giving anything away plot-wise, I was really disappointed on how little we actually see of Thomas and his interactions with those around him. He didn’t develop that much as a character, and it was hard to feel much sympathy or really any emotion to him. Perhaps if the film was a little longer, or they had done things a bit differently, his character could have shown more depth and therefore had more of an impact on the story.
Lucille is Thomas’s older sister, who’s clothing and complexion match his own. From the start she is a bit standoffish, a bit cold shouldered, and often glowers disapproval at her younger brother and his choices. Again without giving anything away, surprisingly Lucille had the most character development and whom I felt the most emotion towards. Not only physically through facial expressions and body movement do we see her change, but you learn more about her in past and future than the other characters. I found her to be the most interesting out of the bunch. Sadly I can’t talk too much about her without giving away story, so you’ll just have to watch yourself and see if you have the same conclusion.
One of the things I loved the most, and Guillermo del Toro always does well, is the color and symbolism of them in film. The contrast of lightness palettes in Edith vs the Sharpe siblings, using the red clay in various ways to symbolize a variety of things, they way the had it set mostly in winter for great contrast and meaning of the isolation and coldness that Edith is experiencing emotionally and spiritually. These I liked very much. The spirits looked rather well done also, it was an interesting take on what an upset spirit may look like and why. When it comes to things that you see with the naked eye, he has always been really good at this. Including the characters themselves, such as hair up vs hair down in a particular scene, the types of clothing they wear (oh man those poof Victorian sleeves slay me!), as well as the well done lighting. These things really set the mood and tone of the film.
Overall, the film was…ok. It went through events much faster than I expected, the movie as a whole seeming rather quick. I found it a bit too easy to figure out all the dark mysteries and going ons, though maybe being mysterious wasn’t the point the film makers were going for. The characters were interesting, as was the concept, however the whole time I kept feeling like I was waiting for more. It was still an enjoyable movie, though I didn’t find it scary there were a few unsettling parts truth be told, and the acting was done really well for as little character development they were given. I probably wouldn’t watch it again, but it is an interesting dark tale with some really nice visuals.