First of all, I am 17 and I absolutely love the book "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goudge, with its beautiful imagery, memorable characters and above all its magical story, and I do agree the book is better than the film in many ways. In fact, the Little White Horse is probably my favourite book of all time. I think the film Secret of Moonacre is a beautiful film, that unfortunately is undermined by one or two problems with the story, and doesn't quite capture the magic of the book.
The film looks absolutely exquisite, with those gorgeous costumes and the lovely sets with the huge menacing moon. The music by Christian Henson is gorgeous and very fitting with the scenery. Gabor Csupo, the director of Bridge of Tarabithia, which is admittedly better, obviously has an eye for art, as he used to be an animator. Other directors that have directed visually stunning fantasy films are Ridley Scott with Legend and Guillermo Del Torro with Pan's Labyrinth.(which is the best foreign language film I have ever seen) Whoever trained the animals, must be told he/she did a truly remarkable job.
The acting is very good, an obvious standout is Dakota Blue Richards of Golden Compass fame in a strong central performance as the protagonist Maria Merryweather. Juliet Stevenson and Andy Linden provide the comedy, with the jokes about indigestion, and whizzing quickly around the kitchen. Tim Curry brings a touch of melancholy to an otherwise menacing and complex character, and it made a difference after seeing Curry in over the top roles such as FrankNFurter and Wadsworth. Though, if anything, I wish Curry had more screen time. Natasha McElhone looked lovely as Loveday, with a lovely face that sometimes defies her when she is cursing for instance. Though I will confess I wasn't entirely convinced by Ioan Gruffodd as Sir Benjamin. In the book Sir Benjamin is fat with three chins, which is a far cry from the gorgeous Gruffodd. I am not saying he was bad, he wasn't. He was very brooding at times, but other times when he looked uncomfortable. That I can understand, because since I have participated in operas with similar costumes,(like the Magic Flute) I do know from experience they can be very uncomfortable to wear.
The story I do agree takes a while to get going, but the book takes one or two chapters to explain the story, which isn't a problem as it is called character development. The basics are all there, the Moon Princess, the pearls and the battle of good and evil, but a lot was changed from the book, and one or two of the characters were changed, and others like Old Parson were left out entirely. I was prepared for a lot of changes when I saw this film (they do it all the time), and although I was fine with most of them, I was annoyed that Maria and Robin's relationship from the book was virtually eliminated, as that was one of the book's main merits. The ending was a bit rushed, I am putting a huge emphasis on the bit, but I liked the underwater sequence very much.
All in all, a flawed but hugely enjoyable film (not the best fantasy I have ever seen but a solid attempt) that is well worth watching for the visuals. 8/10 Bethany Cox