Director: Gillian Armstrong
Cast: Judy Davis, Sam Neill, Wendy Hughes, Robert Grubb, Max Cullen, Aileen Britton, Peter Whitford, Patricia Kennedy, Alan Hopgood, Julia Blake
Now, I've never been huge on romances-- for me, they are truly a rare-to-sometimes food. But I had some decent hope for this film: a headstrong feminist protagonist, a period piece, and with excellent reviews! Unfortunately, I spent most of the time during this film wondering how it ever made the 1001 list-- and haven't I seen this before on Lifetime?
Sybylla Melvyn (Davis) is an ugly woman, and she is struggling against 19th century societal conventions to settle down and get married. She seems dead-set on starting a career in art, literature, or music, and the film is based around her struggle to fulfill that goal. In fact, the film even opens with a grandiose monologue about her brilliant career-- so brilliant, in fact, that we never need to see her doing it or ever even find out what it is she decides to do!
A number of stuffy and I guess supposedly "hunky" suitors and stubborn family members attempt to derail her plans, but Sybylla does her best to not forget herself.
For one, if you're going to call the film "my brilliant career"-- then perhaps the person should HAVE a career. Or at least a more specific ambition. Secondly, the main suitor, Harry Beecham(played by Sam Neill), is supposed to be a hard conflict of interest for Sybylla, but it was hardly convincing. Their romance really rang dead-as-a-doornail, lacking passion or ferocity (which I think was supposed to be a major aspect of Davis' character), and frankly... I just wasn't buying it.
The film was kind of a cheesy snore, and I found myself wishing that I was watching Pride and Prejudice, Marie Antoinette, or countless other romance/period piece films that I enjoy far more than this one. I'd say unless you're okay with being underwhelmed or unless you're a HUGE sucker for any romance film in existence, it's really okay to skip this one.