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Stars: Alden Ehrenreich, Alice Englert, Jeremy Irons, Viola Davis, Emmy Rossum, Thomas Mann, Emma Thompson, Eileen Atkins, Margo Martindale, Zoey Deutch
Director: Richard LaGravenese
The setting, vividly realised by writer-director Richard LaGravenese, production designer Richard Sherman and cinematographer Philippe Rousselot – along with very well used locations – brings the near-archetypal behind-the-times small town of Gatlin, South Carolina vividly to life as the setting for the blend of teenage romance and the supernatural (based on the book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl).
17-year-old Alden Ehrenreich feels life in Gatlin has nothing to offer him: and, for several months, he has been tormented by a recurring dream of a mysterious young girl who waits for him on a Civil War battlefield. Then everything changes when the possible girl of his dreams, enigmatic 15-year-old Alice Englert, arrives at his school where she is given a hard time by her resolutely Christian fellow girl pupils because she is the niece of strange recluse Jeremy Irons. The pupils’ reactions turn out to be justified in a way since, as their romance slowly develops, Ehrenreich discovers Englert is a witch or, as she prefers to be called, a ‘caster’, leading to the supernatural to become a determining force in their relationship…
Stripped of its very well-realised supernatural trimmings, dominated by enjoyably knowing performances by Irons and, especially, Emma Thompson whose mutation from conservative Christian to someone very strange indeed, this is hugely entertaining, Beautiful Creatures boils down to a teenage romance in the supernatural style of the ‘Twilight’ films and, like them, capable of being spun out into a series.
Newcomers Ehrenreich and Englert (the latter the daughter of filmmaker Jane Campion) rise convincingly to the requirements of their roles. They’re lucky in that while their ‘Romeo and Juliet’-style story is hardly a new one (last week the Dead rose to the Shakespearian romantic demands of the story in Warm Bodies), LaGravenese tells it with atmosphere, warmth and enjoyable lack of cliché.
USA 2013. UK Distributor: Entertainment Film Distributors. Colour.
124 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.
Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.
Review date: 13 Feb 2013