Biographer Margaret Lea (Olivia Colman) is summoned to the Yorkshire home of reclusive, dying novelist Vida Winter (Vanessa Redgrave) who has handpicked Margaret to write her biography. Though initially hesitant, as Vida has a reputation for distorting facts in interviews, Margaret becomes fascinated by her previously untold story. As the novelist recounts her dark and disturbing childhood, Margaret is compelled to finally face the trauma of her own past. But as time runs out, Margaret, desperate to hear the end of Vida's story, begins to wonder if she is hearing the confessions of a murderer.
Deeply derivative, big house, 'ghost' story
- The Thirteenth Tale review by PV
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You rated this film: 3
A stellar cast here - but it can't help this being rather plodding and derivative. No doubt the novel it's based on (almost certainly promoted to women of a certain age) is equally plodding and derivative, so maybe that's not the fault of the film.
Vanessa Redgrave loves playing her mad old women, but Olivia Coleman is never very believable for me in her roles, and she isn't here (though I know others adore her).
This is the sort of film the BBC adores - all major characters are female, for a start.
Spooky stereotypes and tropes abound: big house, mystery 'women in white', corner of eye glimpses of possible child, mad aristocratic family, dissolute aristocratic brother, mental aristocratic sister, hints of incest etc. The type of stuff we've seen a thousand times before on TV dramas and in old B-movies.
I saw the twist coming a mile off. This is the sort of thing that works better as a TV drama really so no idea why it was a feature film at all. Made with BBC (i.e. OUR) money. One wonders why.
But all fairly watchable and a way to pass the time. Mercifully short at 90 minutes too.
Almost forgotten it already, however.
2.5 stars rounded up for the pretty scenery efficiently directed (BUT nowhere does it mention where this was filmed! I know I've been there!)