Robert Louis Stevenson’s St. Ives (1998)

Robert Louis Stevenson's St. Ives (1998)


In 1813, during the Napoleonic War Era, a French Captain (Jean Marc Barr, Dogville) is captured by the British army, and is sent to a P.O.W. camp in Scotland, where he finds love and his true identity.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Over the years, there have been several films that have attempted to capture the spirit of adventure and nonstop excitement of author Robert Louis Stevenson’s stories. Treasure Island and Kidnapped remain his most widely read books, and they best exemplify his range and abilities as a writer. It is no surprise that Hollywood keeps going back to his books for inspiration; his stories provide wonderful opportunities for great fun and escapism.

Of all the films based on Stevenson’s work, the British film Robert Louis Stevenson’s St. Ives, written by Allan Cubitt, directed by Harry Hook, remains one of the more peculiar examples. Based on Stevenson’s last unfinished novel, this is a film that walks a difficult tightrope between adventure and comedy.

Closer to Woody Allen’s sensibilities than Stevenson’s, St. Ives refuses to take itself too seriously. Although the film doesn’t completely succeed (either as a comedy or as an adventure tale), its charming nature and disposition make it difficult to categorize the film as a total failure. St. Ives is not in the league of films like Tony Richardson’s Tom Jones (1963) and Royal Flash (1975), but it does offer enough wit and sly humor to put many American comedies to shame.

St. Ives gives the old fashion period piece the irreverent treatment. The film’s full frontal attack to the conventions of historical epics is quite amusing, if not entirely satisfying. There are plenty of chuckles along the way, but the film stops short of being a great satire of the morals and customs of Europe in the 1800s.

Miranda Richardson remains the brightest aspect of the entire enterprise. Miles away from her dramatic roles in Damage and The Crying Game, she offers an extraordinary comical performance, and elevates the film to high levels of quality not fully guaranteed by the script. She makes the most of her small and underdeveloped character with great ease and finesse.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Far from being perfect, the film does offer plenty of clever ideas that will certainly delight a lot of people. At the very least, this is worth a rental. Also starring Richard E. Grant, Jason Isaacs, Anna Friel, and Michael Gough. Color, 90 minutes, Rated R.

6 responses to “Robert Louis Stevenson’s St. Ives (1998)

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