Cider With Rosie full movie review - Vivid Recreation of a Lost World
Philippa Lowthorpe's production used a three-level narrative to tell Laurie Lee's charming story of growing up in the First World War and beyond.
The adult Laurie Lee (Timothy Spall) read extracts from the source-text in voice-over, setting the story in context and explaining why certain incidents were important. The narrative oscillates between the middle of the First World War when the young Lol (Georgie Smith) goes to school for the first time and tries to respond to the events around him; and the postwar era when the older Loll (Archie Cox) copes with adolescence and his sexual feelings for Rosie (Ruby Ashbourne Serkis). The unifying element between the two narratives was Annie, Laurie's mother (Samantha Morton), charged with the responsibility of bringing up a large family on her own.
This CIDER WITH ROSIE worked hard to recreate life in a small village in which everyone "looked after their own," as the adult Lee put it. Everyone knows everyone else, which has its disadvantages as well as its advantages. The adolescent Loll discovers this to his cost in school when his nascent romantic feelings become a subject for class ribaldry. On the other hand the class discover some kind of strength in community, especially when it comes to rebelling against sadistic teacher Miss Buckley (Sarah Sweeney). In one climactic sequence Spadge Hopkins (Jack Harris) picks the teacher up and places her on the desk in front of the class to almost universal acclaim.
Life might have been idyllic for the young Loll, but uncomfortable reality keeps breaking in. Director Lowthorpe is very good at emphasizing the contrast between the child Loll playing soldiers with a piece of wood and a colander on his head, and the genuine fear of deserter James (Billy Howle) as he tries to conceal himself from the military police. Loll has no real idea what is going on, as witnessed in the sequence where James is finally arrested, and the little boy wails: "I didn't tell them!"
The production contains two comic cameos from June Whitfield and Annette Crosbie as the two grannies living on their own at the top and bottom of a house and communicating with one another by banging their sticks on the floor. The young Loll has a particularly touching moment with Granny Trill (Crosbie), who keeps playing with her hair, when he implies that she is wearing a wig. The child's ingenuousness exposes adult pretensions.
The climax of the production comes when the adolescent Loll and Rosie hide under a cart to drink cider. This is the moment when they finally discover the pleasures of sexual contact, as well as drinking alcohol. Although it is only a fleeting moment, never to be repeated, it is an ecstatic one: Loll lies down in a filthy puddle, his clothes saturated in mud, and recalls the feelings associated with it.
CIDER WITH ROSIE is not particularly dramatic, but its evocation of a lost world is both touching and nostalgic. All credit to everyone involved in this charming production.