Saw this film quite awhile back and remembered liking what I saw dwelling on an eccentric aunt (Christine Lahti) looking after two young sisters who are drawn to her for her unconventional ways.
3 out of 4
When Sylvie slips into the scene she shocks the girls great-aunts when she tells them she walked a long distance to get to the house in the bitter cold on icy roads wearing light cloths without boots. Her entrance tells you something is unique about who she is and thus the girls life change's in a big way as they soon discover it will be up to them to make decisions about how they spend their time. With their new freedom, they skip school and explored the nearby country as had their grandfather, yet for the younger sister, Lucille, this became boring and is left with a feeling of isolation from society. Her taller older sister, Ruth seems to not mind this lifestyle and was only following her sisters lead as she soon does with her aunt.
I was amazed at the lack of information Sylvie was able to pass on to the 2 sisters about her mother when they began to question her about their mother. They were not able to fill in the missing gap about who their mother was, a big missing piece of the puzzle for the girls to help them figure out who they were and what they were to become.
When Lucille rejoins society she attempts to take her sister with her, but soon gives up and leaves to go live with a family in town who lives a normal life. This set's the fate of her Ruth as your will discover after watching this movie.
I like how the characters in this movie let each other go their own ways without pressuring them to change. Even when a few ladies from a church comes to visit Sylvie (they learn of some odd behavior by Sylvie) the meeting is low keyed and compassionate about what has been going on. It is only when the sheriff steps in one to many times out of concern for Ruth that you get a sense of impending doom is going to occur. This must be the moral of the movie, that one to many actions we take in life rather than justing letting nature take its natural course. After all, the path had been set into motion from others long before we get to the scene.
(Sorry. I just love that quote.)
There are rare films that I like to watch over and over again which has happened increasingly less as time goes on. Of those, three films by Bill Forsyth are prime examples that combine high quality with unmatched enjoyment. They are "Gregory's Girl," "Local Hero" and "Houskeeping" which form an informal trilogy containing characters who feel out of place.
I saw "Housekeeping" for the first time in a long time in New York City last night and recall having seen it on campus shortly after it came out. And I loved it then, and love it now, especially Bill Forsyth's perfectly unassuming direction, classic dialogue and gorgeous cinematography. Basically, it is about two sisters, Ruth(Sara Walker) and Lucille(Andrea Burchill) who are left with their grandmother(Georgie Collins) in Fingerbone shortly before their mother(Margot Pinvidic) drives into a lake. The grandmother's death brings in two elderly aunts(Anne Pitoniak & Barbara Reese) who in turn contact the mother's vagabond sister Sylvie(Christine Lahti) before departing suddenly, leaving her more or less in charge.
One of my prime memories of "Housekeeping" is the scene where Sylvie breaks out in laughter at an advertisement for vacuum cleaners that perfectly expresses the domesticity of the 1950's when the movie is set. When I first saw the movie, I thought she is simply rejecting traditional roles. Watching it now, I picked up on some additional dialogue which not only gives new meaning to that scene but also hints at Sylvie's dark past which she will not speak to her nieces about when they are desperately looking for information about their mother. This is important since Sylvie's relationship to her sister reflects on the present relationship between Ruth and Lucille. It also gives a deeper impression that she had some more experience in a home than otherwise indicated and explains her ambivalence towards household chores, preferring the freedom of the open road, as she takes life in stride, where the unknown is preferable to the known. In the moment, she stays longer than normal in a small town, where rules can be bent but not broken, that tolerates her eccentricity up to a point and is still haunted by a disastrous train crash decades before.