New supernatural romance a calm after Twilight storm

SUPERNATURAL romance appears to be far from gone in cinema, and as much as some may fight it new takers for the next blockbuster fantasy franchise are knocking at the door. It's now not something even the best of Hollywood actors are taking lightly.

Jeremy Irons and Emma Thompson have come on board in what was largely marketed as an off-beat spin on a crazy teenage world. Instead you have something a little more serious, not trying to be like the Twilight storm but an accepting calm after it. Like a lot of teen-friendly stories, this film has a lot of moralising good.

Alice Englert, daughter of acclaimed New Zealand director Jane Campion, is 15-year-old Lena, who comes to the fictional hicksville of Gatlin, South Carolina. She is a teenager - who actually looks like a teenager - and falls for the charming-just-because-he-is Ethan (Alden Ehrenreich).

The likable central characters are interesting to watch as they quickly develop a relationship and Ethan finds out Lena's secret (bet you didn't see that one coming). She is a Caster (a nicer word for witch), but will turn to the light or dark on her 16th birthday depending on her true nature.

This story draws back on American history with plot links to the Civil War and witch accusations from earlier times in the south. It draws from themes of fear and uncertainty, and uses a small community convinced of their devotion to God in drawing attention to extreme views some of their people possess.

A key motif throughout the film is that a fear of the unknown will get you nowhere. Ethan's a clued-up kid; life seems all mapped out for him, but he refuses to believe he'll be another generic stereotype.

He believes his town is full of people either "too stupid to leave or too stuck to move", an idea that will either leave you in complete agreeance or be seen as an unfair hit to small towns all round.

There's a lot of family drama in this story much like others in the genre.

Ethan has an unstable father after the death of his mother; a character frequently mentioned but not seen. Lena's uncle Mason (Irons) also has problems when his niece Ridley (Emmy Rossum) rolls into town. A bit of dysfunctionality goes a long way in making the story trod along.

Richard LaGravenese directed his adapted screenplay of the base novel and takes care not to over-exaggerate fantastical scenes.

The strong Southern accents from his cast manage that on their own but allow an appreciation for something from the average fare, as well as a cast of characters that aren't all just beautiful faces.

The teen romance may be just as big a factor in this supernatural story as any other but it fares well for keeping serious while avoiding over-soppiness.

Two unknowns as the leading duo leads us not into temptation to stalk their every move as celebrity gossip, but delivers us from that evil.

Rating: 3/5

Now screening at Reading Cinemas

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