Combustible Celluloid
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With: Joely Richardson, Aden Young, Molly Parker, Kevin Phillip, Krisha Fairchild, Marjorie Nelson, Alisa Mackay, Elsie Vance, Teru McDonald, Anna Copley, George Catalano, Stefan Enriquez, Meliza Chavez, Wayne Grace, Rod Utley
Written by: Meg Richman, based on a novel by Henry James
Directed by: Meg Richman
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality, language and drug content
Running Time: 112
Date: 01/19/1998

Under Heaven (1998)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Strings of a Dove

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

First time writer-director Meg Richman's film is a modern-day version of Henry James' The Wings of the Dove. A poor young couple, Buck (Aden Young from Cousin Bette) and Cynthia (Molly Parker), get jobs working for a rich dying woman, Eleanor Dunston (Joely Richardson). They begin to scheme that if Buck could marry Eleanor, they could both inherit her money when she goes. But -- surprise! -- Buck actually falls in love with her. Under Heaven is certainly not a bad film, but I found it uninspiring. I couldn't get a handle on Young's character, who at times seems to be a dumb slab of meat, and at other times is reciting poetry. The movie also tries to subtly tackle issues of alcoholism, poverty and breast cancer, but the whole package just wound up being too touchy-feely for me. It seemed less like a labor of love and more like just a labor. Under Heaven was shown at the Sundance Film Festival and the Dockers Classically Independent Film Festival at the Castro. (It was released on DVD under the title In the Shadows.)

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