Based on The Chimneys of Green Knowe, the second book in the Green Knowe series, From Time to Time is set during the last few months of World War II in England. Tolly is sent to live with his grandmother at Green Knowe—his father’s family’s ancestral home—after his father is reported as missing during World War II. His first night there, he encounters two of the ghosts. His grandmother assures him that ghosts are real and they are previous residents of the manor. Tolly then finds he can interact with them, through a sort of time rift.
I have never read the Green Knowe books, though I have family members who love them. Therefore, I can’t say whether the film is a good adaptation of the book. However, I really enjoyed the film.
The story was presented in an interesting way, weaving the characters from Napoleonic era England and the current story set in 1944. While slower paced than many modern films, From Time to Time kept my interest the entire time. The plot moved along at a steady pace, never too quickly or too slowly. There were even a few twists thrown in, though a couple of them were not surprising for those who pay attention to details.
I found all of the characters to be solid. Maggie Smith was wonderful as the matriarch of the current-day Oldknow family. She was opinionated and somewhat stubborn, yet eventually willing to set aside her pride for the good of the family. Alex Etel did an excellent job playing Tolly. His character was smart, and grew a lot during the film, allowing him to accept the responsibilities of the real world while learning to appreciate his family from the past.
Timothy Spall played a gruff—but friendly—gardener. In many ways, his character acted as a surrogate father for Tolly during the film, providing a sounding board for Tolly as he learned the secrets of Green Knowe. I especially liked Eliza Bennett (Susan) and Kwayedza Kureya (Jacob). Their interaction was wonderful, and set a fine example for how we should all treat each other. While From Time to Time wasn’t about slavery, it still addressed the issue, which was very much alive in the early 1800s. It also did so in a direct, but non-preachy way.
The effects in the film seemed to be mostly non-digital camera effects. There are a few making-of features in the bonus materials on the DVD that are worth watching, just to see why the film was made the way it was. It was fun to hear from the cast, some of whom had never read the books, either.
I enjoyed From Time to Time. It was solidly written, solidly acted, and solidly directed. I suspect that those who like the books will enjoy this film, and it’s a good introduction to the world of Green Knowe for those unfamiliar with it. I expect I will be reading the books in the not-too-distant future.
Release Date: September 24, 2010 (UK)
MPAA Rating: PG
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief social drinking)
Violence: 1 (some abusive fighting, some peril)