FairyTale: A True Story

FairyTale: A True Story


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

The best will in the world cannot make Edwardian fascination with the paranormal anything but quaint. In these sceptical times, things that go bump in the night are probably airlocks in the central heating system. When 12-year-old Elsie (Florence Hoath) and her eight-year-old cousin Frances (Elizabeth Earl) claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of their garden in 1917, the table turning Belgravia set can't control their excitement. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Peter O'Toole) and Harry Houdini (Harvey Keitel), no less, are on the case. Is this proof that little people exist?

Charles Sturridge and Ernie Contreras have no doubt about it. Their film is not a mystery - are the winged creatures figments of little girlish fancy, optical illusion or well-fed dragonflies? It's a private pact between the cousins and the audience. Even Elsie's mum (Phoebe Nicholls) and dad (Paul McGann) are kept in the dark. Yorkshire born and bred, they don't take kindly to outside interference, especially when The Bradford Argus send a goofy reporter on a clapped out motorbike to write a story about them.

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Sturridge, who cut his teeth on Brideshead Revisited, knows how to make a film look good. It suffers from being so similar to Nick Willing's Photographing Fairies, although avoids unseemly melodrama.

Keitel fulfills his busiest-actor-in-the-West status with a charming cameo that doesn't make a whole lot of difference to the plot and O'Toole is burdened with the knowledge that he couldn't look less like the creator of Sherlock Holmes if he tried. The girls are great, and the fairies nice. Peter Pan was right about grown-ups. You can't take them seriously and you certainly can't trust them with your secrets.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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FairyTale: A True Story packshot
Drama based on the true story of girls who claimed they had photographed fairies.
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Director: Charles Sturridge

Writer: Ernie Contreras

Starring: Florence Hoath, Elizabeth Earl, Paul McGann

Year: 1998

Runtime: 108 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: UK


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