Housekeeping

In his first American picture (1987) Scottish director Bill Forsyth adapts Marilynne Robinson's much-acclaimed novel about two orphaned sisters (played by Sara Walker and Andrea Burchill) who share their ramshackle house with their eccentric aunt (Christine Lahti). The setting is the Pacific northwest in the 1950s, and Forsyth does a remarkable job with period detail and the beautiful natural settings, assisted by his own UK crew of cinematographer Michael Coulter, production designer Adrienne Atkinson, costume designer Mary-Jane Reyner, and editor Michael Ellis. But the most impressive thing about this haunting fable is Forsyth's fluidity and grace as a storyteller, which gives this understated tale some of the resonance one associates with Terrence Malick's Badlands and Days of Heaven. The story suggests a kind of feminist version of Huckleberry Finn, with the sisters playing Huck and Tom to their aunt's Jim; the performances by all three actresses are impeccable. A film to be savored rather than gulped.

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