Wednesday, July 13, 2011


with no major tennis tourney yet and having no interest on nightly dramas on local TV, hbo once again was the perfect choice… on it was stephen poliakoff's capturing mary, starring maggie smith.

eerie, terrifying and haunting, the film follows mary gilbert's (maggie smith) look back at her lost youth, with memories shared to joe (danny lee wynter), the now-caretaker of elliott graham's grand mansion. as she steps into the house and move from room to room, recollection of storied events that had happened in the house were recounted to joe. mary used to be somewhat of a controversial writer, part of the society's elite, with her explosive (in the fifties and sixties) writings on sex and women empowerment. everything was going well for the young mary (ruth wilson), until she encounters deeply evil man known as greville white (david walliams) in one of the soirees in the 'house'. greville was a social climber whose connections reached into high society. he befriended mary, telling her about shady secrets of the british establishment, which included child abuse, sexual perversion, anti-semitism, and racism, among others. mary soon realized that greville is of shadowy character, with overt suggestions of malevolent might and she rejected him. with greville's connection and influence among the newspaper editors, mary's career was destroyed. what followed was mary's downward spiral to years of depression and alcoholism. towards the end of the film, it was revealed that mary met greville in kensington park before going to the mansion. the evil greville did not age since they saw each other in the 1950s. mary then left the house, with joe asking her to meet again. she obliged and they saw each other in kensington gardens. mary then asked joe to leave, saying that she will be alright.

one might see the film as having supernatural undertone due to the seemingly unexplainable effect of greville over mary. but in essence, it is about a woman's struggle in a period when women's liberation movement was still at its infancy stage. mary wanted to free herself from her working class roots but was hindered by the still ongoing fifties way of treating women. after just a few years, the cultural disdain on women's liberation, as represented by greville, would be obsolete. in the end, what mary badly needed was a closure and making peace with her past and joe, of african-american descent, was the unlikely instrument.

capturing mary is a thought-provoking film that would definitely make you ask, "why did she allow that to happen to herself?". but as poliakoff explains, "her despair is to do with what she wanted to become but never did. as age consumes us, there are moments like that for all of us." all details were enmeshed beautifully and the characters were all well-written.

maggie smith is usually seen as a figure of authority, either as an aged but firm headmistress minerva mcgonagall in harry potter series or a judgmental stoic elder sister to judi dench's ursula in ladies in lavender. she has played snob countess in gosford park and as the bossy and dowager-like lady hester random in tea with mussolini. but in capturing mary, dame maggie was at her brilliant fragility, her eyes showed elderly irresolute stance while trying to make peace with her youth's missteps and moving on while at her twilight years. she maintained a sense of english bearing but at the same time was exceptionally effective in conveying the character's vulnerability and exposed feebleness. she truly is one of britain's treasured thespians.

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