Written by Kyle Richardson
In Victorian London, a young solicitor isnât faring so well. He lost his wife in childbirth, his young son is being raised by a nanny and his tiring boss gives him one last chance to get in the good books of the firm: a working week sorting through the papers of a dead woman at Eel Marsh House, a dilapidated coastal mansion. When he arrives, Arthur Kipps can tell he isnât welcome. Maybe itâs the local solicitor trying to force him back onto a London train, or the children staring at him from every window. Anyway, Arthurâs world really begins to unravel after his visit to the house, when he sees a veiled figure walking amongst gravestones. Who is she? Has she anything to do with the deaths of so many local children? Can Arthur solve the mystery, or will he be another victim of this ghoulish lady?
The Woman in Black is Daniel Radcliffeâs first post-Potter screen appearance, and so the world and his wife â dragged along by their Harry-mad sprogs â will no doubt see this film. In the main, theyâll leave satisfied that he did a good job, and perhaps the filmâs most significant achievement is that it confirms the fifth-richest Briton under-30 can retain a fruitful acting career. But I canât be the only one that instead of satisfaction, feels a profound, well, relief?
I felt like a convert to Radcliffe fandom by the end of the Potter franchise, but what started as a seeming inability to act in the first films only really grew into a vague competence.Â No, to admire Daniel Radcliffe takes a deeper appreciation and one undeniably tied up with Harry Potter, the books, the films and the whole kitbag. Simply put, because itâs hard to hate Harry Potter, itâs hard to hate Radcliffe. Similarly, itâs hard not to root for him, and feel relieved when his next effort isnât half bad. Despite the deficiencies he may have as a performer those who are already invested in him support him because he gives it his all.
That is not meant to sound patronising. Being a âcommittedâ actor is highly lauded and the distinction between actors who have many other aspects to their talent and actors like Radcliffe who perhaps donât doesnât necessarily make much difference to the film itself. Like Harry before him and now Arthur, Daniel refuses to give up until the tale is told and the success of The Woman in Black – narratively speaking, let alone financially âhangs on this. I couldnât help thinking whilst watching him emerge from a bog with only his mouth not covered in sludge- âGood on you Harry, youâve done it againâ. Sorry, I meant Daniel. Sure, he doesnât pull off playing a father, and his accent stays the same despite being over a hundred years in the past. But heâs twenty one, has no kids and isnât particularly versatile. Daniel Craig didnât even attempt a Swedish accent in The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo and no one really minded. The kids and the fans will like The Woman in Black because Daniel does well. The adults have other reasons to enjoy it, if they need them.
For starters, it follows on from decent British horror/thrillers from the past decade like The Descent and Eden Lake (also directed by James Watkins) and it sits comfortably within this canon. It marks a proper comeback for Hammer films and the publicity gained from this film will do them the world of good. Twenty years after Bram Stokerâs Dracula itâs also nice to have a new gothic horror film to savour for the next generation. The support cast are strong, the clear plot allows for some well executed jumps and scares and, without spoiling, the ending is unexpected. Finishing with the star though, Radcliffe may never step out of Harryâs shadow and perhaps he âcannot live whilst the other survivesâ, but maybe that doesnât matter. The Woman in Black is proof that he does meek better than heroic, and if the casting directors agree then audiences may be going potty over Daniel for years to come.
Last edited: 4th June 2012
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