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Housekeeping [VHS]
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Product Description

This sad and quirky movie by Bill Forsyth (Local Hero), set in the 1950s, is a faithful adaptation of Marilynne Robinson's luminous book. Two orphaned girls (newcomers Sara Walker and Andrea Burchill) fall in love with their happy-go-lucky Aunt Sylvie (Christine Lahti) when she comes to live with them. However, the girls discover their quintessentially eccentric aunt is more crazy than idiosyncratic. She has a lifetime supply of newspapers and tin cans, and she doesn't like to turn the lights on in the house. As all crazy aunts are likely to have, she also adopts a large collection of stray cats. She carries crackers in her pocket for the imaginary children in the woods and disappears into the mountains for days on end.

This shunning of responsibility has a profound effect on the sisters' own relationship. Ruthie (the eldest and narrator of the story) is a tall and gangly teenager, never fitting in at school, and badly wanting to emulate Sylvie's free-spiritedness. But the younger Lucille longs for stability and the need to belong. She tries to help her older sister, but is met with strong opposition from Ruthie. Lucille decides to go it alone and Ruthie, at last, finds her Aunt Sylvie both literally and emotionally.

Unfortunately the townspeople of Fingerbone (a fictitious town beautifully filmed in British Columbia) decide it's time Aunt Sylvie got her act together. But Ruthie and Sylvie cannot conform, and so they escape the grasp of Fingerbone in a surprising and delightful manner. It's in this climax that Forsyth's unique eye for capturing strangely beautiful details opens wide. What Robinson does with language in her book Forsyth mirrors with poetic images. Lahti is simply wonderful as Aunt Sylvie, as are Walker and Burchill as Ruthie and Lucille. A graceful film and offbeat story. --Samantha Allen Storey

Customer Reviews:

  • Beautifully Acted & Loyal To The Book
    I have to say first that if you have not read the novel of the same name by Marilynne Robinson, then put down your remote and get to the library, because it is a beautiful, poetic piece of writing that will make you want to thank whomever first taught you to read. Then you will have earned watching this video. Unlike many book and companion movie experiences, you will not turn to a friend and lament as the credits are rolling, "You know, the book was so much better!" The director Bill Forsyth made no bones about his full intent to loyally recreate the world of this book onscreen. Letting Robinson's melancholy style direct the film's focus is a wise choice. The cinematography could not more poignantly recreate the fictitious town of Fingerbone, and the acting is wonderfully understated. This is un-Hollywood, and un-Indie and sad and soulful. Enjoy it....more info
  • Charming in a sober sort of way
    Based on the novel of the same name, Bill Forsythe (one of the greatest directors ever) shows he can adapt an existing work very faithfully. I came to it expecting the whimsy of Forsythe's earlier films. I didn't get it, but came away really really liking this movie. Christine Lahti is terrific as Aunt Sylvie, an eccentric aunt who comes to "take care" of her nieces after their mother dies. What keeps this movie from being a goofy charmer is, of course, the fact that Aunt Sylvie (while enchanting) definitely has larger problems than mere eccentricity, and this means that the young girls end up having to keep an eye on her. The ending could be happy, but it is thoughtful. You'll come away thinking. That's good, though....more info
  • A sweet and haunting film, with the great Christine Lahti.
    One of my all time favorites, this is an underrated film about the deeply felt sensibilities of ordinary people. Christine Lahti brings her amazing talent for understated elegance and subtle strangeness to the role of the odd aunt to whom falls the care of orphaned girls, whose mother has driven her car into a lake--purposefully. It is heartbreakingly beautiful, charming, entrancing, subtly mysterious and absolutely engrossing. The film sweeps you off into a place you can scarcely imagine, captivates your senses completely. I find something new in it each time. To you, I highly recommend this film if you like purity of acting, with a gentle trip into the soul of the innocent. This is an amazingly subtle film to see, to remember, to cherish....more info
  • Appealingly Honest
    There are movies that I hardly remember 6 months after watching and a few that stay with me forever. Housekeeping is one of the latter. I'm hard pressed to say exactly why that is. You've gotta' love the Aunt Sylvie character. Perhaps we all long to be that carefree and unconcerned with the demands of conventional society. Maybe it's a sadness felt for the two sisters, so close after being orphaned at a young age who gradually drift apart as one is drawn to a conventional life and one to Aunt Sylvie's. Whatever it is, the film strikes a chord in me that few movies do. It's an honest story with real and appealing characters played with sensitivity and bitter-sweet humor, never for cheap laughs. Maybe that's what people who love this film are drawn to. Whatever it is, for me it has a haunting appeal that hasn't dimmed with repeated viewings.

    My only complaint is that it's not available on DVD.
    ...more info
  • Haunting.
    I first saw this movie, or rather the last third of it, on a movie station at three in the morning while I was snowed in at my apartment with nothing but beer and popcorn and the roommates thankfully gone. The problem was that after it was over I had no idea what I had just watched. (I missed the part in the credits where they tell you) It wasn't until later, when I described what I had seen of the movie to a friend, that he said he had read a book just like it in college: Housekeeping. And sure enough, that was it. It has now become one of my favorite films. It is a quite and beautiful experience that captures the novel exquisitely: Thoughtful and haunting....more info
  • A Quiet Masterpiece
    I saw this when it first came out, and saw it no less than six times. I told everyone I knew to see it, and they all agreed that it was one of the best films of that year, and further wondered why they had not heard of it. I don't want to give a huge review, extolling the film's numerous virtues. Just know that this is a small, quiet, moving and faintly disturbing little movie, which in it's tiny way is far more revolutionary and profound than nine out of ten Oscar winners. For fine acting, direction, cinematography, and music, you need search no further. They don't come better than this. A small quiet film that gets by without shootings, impalings, or overt propaganda....more info
  • This Movie Is An American Classic...To Me At Least
    Basically I just love the mood of the film. Great acting. Great characters. The best ending ever. I'm kinda a Ruthie type. "You've Got A Fish In Your Pocket" ...more info
  • Beautifully filmed Coming-of-Age movie
    I saw this as a beautiful piece of filmmaking that approached the coming-of-age theme in the context of a family on the fringe of a small town's society. Housekeeping is about two sisters growing up int the Pacific Northwest. Orphaned by their mother's suicide, they are raised by their eccentric aunt who never quite grasps the realities of parental responsibility.

    The aunt, played brilliantly by Christine Lahti, had been a drifter most of her life. She's heroically indifferent to the expectations of her neighbors. Her indifference to the girls' needs is a lot less likeable. She is one of those folks who is socially marginal, not so much through brilliant originality as through general incompetence.

    Housekeeping almost deliberately avoids events and narrative. Responding to the then current wave of feminist critique in literature, it focuses on the slow development of the relationships between the three women. The spectacular background becomes a reminder of the richness of ordinary things and feelings.

    As eccentric as its characters, this is a small and moving masterpiece.

    --Lynn Hoffman, author of THE NEW SHORT COURSE IN WINE and the forthcoming novel bang-BANG from Kunati Books....more info
  • A quirky, sensitive, and charming film
    I saw this film on television very recently and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. Two young girls meet their mother's sister after the death of their Grandmother. Played ably by Christine Lahti, the girl's Aunt Sylvie is no run of the mill relative who has come to care for her nieces. She is free spirited, eccentric and totally crazy in the most delightful and offbeat way. Her nieces Ruthie and Lucille deal with her differently. Lucille is horrified by Sylvie's unconventionality, whilst Ruthie is drawn to her fey Aunt who sees the spirits of children in the wood, and likes to ride freight trains, and go sailing on the nearby lake in a rickety old boat and listen to the trains go over the town's old railway bridge. Eventually Sylvie's odd ways gets too much for Lucille to cope with and she goes to live with one of her teachers from school. Ruthie however grows to love her Aunt more and more each day, because in Sylvie the gawky and plain teenager sees something of her own nature that she can now express freely without fear of condemnation. However it is the 1950's, a time of family values coupled with conformity to the accepted norm and therefore the town of Fingerbone does not approve of Sylvie's way of raising her dead sister's child. Soon the interference begins with the arrival of the local Sheriff and then do-gooders from the local church. Sylvie tries to change for the sake of her niece but no matter how hard she tries she cannot fit in and soon the threat of loosing Ruthie becomes a terrifying reality. The scene were Aunt and niece hide in the closet together in order to avoid the do-gooders is poignant and touching. Sylvie will never fit into the Fingerbone community and both Aunt and niece know that if they stay they will eventually be separated so they decide to run away together, heading across the old railway bridge, something that no one has ever done before. The ending is surprising because of its abruptness but you are left with a sense of satisfaction. This is a great movie if want something slow, intelligent and thoughtful. Well worth buying or renting if you get the chance....more info
  • Housekeeping (original movie) EXCELLENT - VHS - not so good
    My favorite movie of all-time was Housekeeping which I saw in the Quad Cinema in New York many years ago. I was very disappointed with the VHS version, however, which cut out some of the most tender and magical moments. It made me feel he just did not even get the movie at all, or even care to....more info
  • The Film That Criterion Forgot.
    Housekeeping is one of the greatest films about nonconformity to ever grace cinema, and is without question, my personal favorite film to never have an official DVD release of any kind. Nonconformity is perhaps the very reason why Housekeeping is still in DVD hibernation till this very day. It is a movie that literally does everything contrary to consumption oriented mass appeal. Released in 1987, one of the bleakest periods for artistic vision in cinematic history, Housekeeping has a strong story, very real three dimentional characters, and the audacity to present a compelling sociological question to the audience. Perhapes the only film to ever be shot in the picturesque town of Nelson Brittish Colombia, the visuals are so dominated by lake, forest, and mountains, that the landscape itself, can not be avoided in any possible way. The effect is one of isolation and loneliness, achieved by the unconventional approach of using agoraphobic spacious scenery to literally cut the viewer off from the rest of the outside world. Yet, what really caused the major labels to throw away the key on Housekeeping, is its utter lack of bells and whistles. Housekeeping has to be one of the least flashy films in movie history. It uses a slowed down small town pace, that is meditative and casual, rather then gimmicky special effects, or slick stylized camera work. Housekeepings DVD problems is that the film actually demands that you use your attention span and pay attention to it. Be that as it may, all you really have to do to appreciate Housekeeping is allow yourself to care about the characters in it. Once you care about them, the rest takes care of itself.

    Housekeeping is an in depth character study about three family members that don't fit in with the rest of the world. Ruth ( Sara Walker ) and Lucille ( Andrea Burchill ) are teenage sisters living in a small lakeside town high up in The Pacific northwest mountains during the mid 1950's. The film takes its first 13 minutes to show how these two isolated girls ended up in such an unlikely place. Though there is some voice over by the main character and older sister Ruth throughout the entire film, about half of that narration takes place during this opening section. In this way, the opening prolog works as a kind of sonata styled exposition to the real dramatic material in the movie. The movie begins when both Ruth and Lucille are roughly five to six years of age, they are being dropped off at their grandmothers house in that tiny lakeside town. Their mother never comes back to get them, instead she chooses to drive off a cliff face into the town lake. Ruth and Lucille are not only abandoned by their mothers suicide, but also by a huge generational age gap between them and the people that are now forced to raise them. The opening section shows how the two sisters spent their entire informative years surrounded by people separated from being able to truly relate to them by more years then they would care to count. As Ruth explains during part of her opening voice over. " The paperboy was the only person under 60 that we saw regularly."

    Not only has the lake swallowed up their mother, but even their grandfather lies dead under that same blanket of dark water. It is because of him that this estranged family even calls this isolated mountain town home. Through Ruth's opening narration we learn how the idea of mountains inspired their grandfather to leave the plain states at a young age for this odd location, simply so he can be in a terrain far different then the endless flatness he knew and grew to despise in his youth. For a good 20 years he lived there, until on one moonless night, the train he was working on plunged off of the massively long bridge that spans the town lake, leaving behind just a hole in the ice. With their closest relatives at the bottom of that vast vacuous lake, Ruth and lucille are now always alone together, and that deep languid body of water is for all intensive purposes, a physical metaphore for the family heritage.

    Two's company, Three's a croud.

    In the film Citizen X, Max Von Sydow tells Stephen Rea, and Donald Sutherland. " May I say that together, you two make a beautiful person." At first, Ruth and Lucille seem kind of the same way, like separate halves of the same person. Very early on in the picture, this notion that the two sisters are forever linked together is summed up masterfully by a single image. While they are still only small children, we see that they are on the far end of two very long ropes that are secured around their waists. The camera pans from the door knobs that the ropes are fastened to, then through several rooms in the flat that their family occupies. All along the wood floor, the ropes criss cross over one another like two endless and tangled umbilical cords. It's an impressive visual that not only shows their mothers utter neglect for her own children, but on a symbolic level shows that they are, whether they like it or not, tied together because of their families shortcomings.

    The first scene that happenes once the introduction is over, shows Ruth and Lucille ice skating together on the frozen lake. Because Lucille does not like the yapping dogs, they are both very far away from the shoreline where the rest of the town youth are sledding down various snow banks. Unlike Ruth who is tall, gangly, and shy, Lucille is petite, shapely, and full of complaints. From a single exchange of dialog, we learn all we need to know about their rolls as sibling halves. Lucille not only gripes about hating those dogs, but she also criticizes Ruth for not relaxing her arms when she skates. In complete contrast, Ruth has no complaints of her own, she is perfectly content just to remain silent and fallow on her little sisters coat tails through all of their daily events. It is a testiment to Bill Forsyth's directional choices, that he gives his audience the benefit of the doubt that they can formulate these relationship dynamics on their own, since nothing is ever mentioned about these subtleties during the film itself. As such, we see that Ruth would of gladly accepted and let this friendless isolation from the outside world go on undisturbed forever, just so long as she had Lucille to confide in. Without her sister, Ruth would be utterly alone in the world. Worse still, one can also tell that Ruth lacks the necessary social abilities needed ever to replace Lucille with. From this single exchange we are able to see that the spiritual bond that ties these two sisters together could fray apart at any moment. Especially since Lucille does not seem to feel the same way about their relationship as Ruth does. Unknown to both Ruth and Lucille, all it would really take to undo their life bond, would be the influence of a third party, regardless as to if this third party even means to intervene intentionally.

    Be Careful What You Wish For.

    Christine Lahti plays Aunt Sylvie, the little sister of Ruth and Lucille's deceased mother. Now a woman in her mid 30's, she is the perfect age to immediately become the closest thing to actual family that these two girls have ever known. Aunt Sylvie came into town after writing to their grandmother for the first time in so long, that she hadn't even realize that the old lady had passed away. This would be understandable if it had been some distant relative, but the girls grandmother is none other then the mother of Aunt Sylvie herself. Ruth and Lucille where currently under the care of their great aunts Lily and Nona, two worrisome old maids that feared the very idea of living in such an isolated place. With an agenda of their own, they looked at Aunt Sylvie's return as their one chance to get out of that backwoods town for the secure lights of the big city. That evening they fled leaving Ruth and Lucille in the hands of Aunt Sylvie. Excited by the prospect of finally having a tangible guardian, the girls welcomed Aunt Sylvie into their lives with open arms. This would of been perfectly idealistic if it wasn't for one small detail. Aunt Sylvie has spent her entire adult life as a drifter.

    In contrast to having to endure the constant bouts of seemingly petty fears that plagued their great aunts Lily and Nona, Aunt Sylvie's flighty eccentric behavior was as much a breath of fresh air to the girls as it is to the audience. Aunt Sylvie has this easy way with people due to a lifetime of meeting strangers in bus stations and freight trains. Her quirkiness almost makes it seem like she might shake up this prudent small town community and turn it on its head for good, but in actuality, Sylvie isn't so much a maverick as she is a person unable to fully intergrate themselves back into regular society. Their are several telling moments that Aunt Sylvie may not be dealing with a full deck.

    About midway through the film, Aunt Sylvie starts celebrating a birthday with Ruth and Lucille. Having used a rolled up newspaper to light the candles on the birthday cake, Aunt Sylvie waves out the burning newspaper and sets it down on the window sill. Once the cake is lit, she begins to sing happy birthday to Ruth. Lucille interrupts the festivities to alert Aunt Sylvie to the fact that the smouldering newspaper had relit itself and caught the drapes on fire. Without so much as missing a verse, Aunt Sylvie continues to sing happy birthday, even while using the same rolled up and burnt newspaper to swat out the now flaming drapes with.

    During another incident, the girls notice Aunt Sylvie standing on the train bridge while they are skipping school. Aunt Sylvie seemed to be in some kind of euphoric trance, almost acting as if she might jump off of the bridge at any moment, and join the rest of their family at the bottom of the lake. Alarmed, Lucille screamed out Sylvie's name as both girls ran toward her. Sylvie stepped off of the train bridge with a rapturous smile on her face, excitedly telling Ruth and Lucille that she had wanted to try that for years. Lucille had to explain to her that had she of fallen in, that they and the rest of the town would of thought she had done so on purpose. Aunt Sylvie realizing her mistake, apologized for having scared them so badly, adding that she had thought that they would of still been in school. Having now been caught in the crime of truancy, the girls confessed their guilt, telling Aunt Sylvie that neither of them had been in school for the entire week. "Well you see, I didn't know That!" Aunt Sylvie replied. As Ruth immediately points out in her next voice over.
    " aunt Sylvie's attitude to our truancy was unsatasfactory."

    Before too long, the house is filled from floor to ceiling with old discarded newspapers, mountains of freshly washed tin cans, and a good dozen stray cats. Along with these remnants of Aunt Sylvie's itinerate ways, she also displays other less then normal behavior traits that start to rub Lucille the wrong way. Being far more outgoing then Ruth, Lucille quickly senses that things are amiss at home under Aunt Sylvie's parenting, but soon these feelings turn into all out rebellion. Lucille begins to demand a conventional existence. In her efforts to better herself into becoming a normal decent person, she also makes a concerted effort to pull Ruth into the fold of normality, by attempting to pull her away from the clutches of what she calls, Aunt Sylvie's trashiness. This Culminates in an amazing moment in which Lucille uses her dynamic strong will to make Ruth go with her into the local youth hang out, in an ill attempt to intergrate her into the social scene. Ruth is sitting there amongst the clatter of done up teenagers, and intrusively loud 50's pop music, looking more uncomfortable in her own skin then in any moment of social discomfort that I have ever seen depicted in any movie. Ruth looked so utterly lost in these surroundings, that one would almost think that she had just been transported into that diner in a time machine from some past century. Wearing the flower patterned dress, curlers, and scarf that Lucille had forced her to put on, Ruth might as well have been dressed in clown shoes and mime paint. Her entire body seemed to be recoiling in that outfit during every excruciating second that that scene lingered on. Finally unable to stand that environment another second, Ruth hurries out of the diner and hustles away from Lucille, back to the house that had become Sylvie's.

    Ruth The Truth.

    The question I kept asking myself while writing this review, is why would any film go out of its way to not be noticed? There is a somber seclusion to how this film presents itself, as if it is generally modest and bashful. To find an answer to this conundrum, all you have to do is look at Housekeeping's main character. Ruth is a person that has zero friends outside of her immediate family. She is uncomfortable in public, and so ashamed of her awkward tallness, that she hangs her head and stares at the ground when she walks. Ruth does not seem to have any inner drive, or worldy goals. In fact, she almost never speaks unless she's spoken to. The last thing that Ruth has within her is a desire to impress other people. I know many people who would not like Ruth. To them, Ruth would be little more then a failure in life, but in my eyes, she is flat out remarkable. Ruth is quite possibly the most genuinely decent person I have ever seen depicted in any film. Unlike the people that need to be impressed, or have that burning desire to impress other people, Ruth would never be able to betray anyone, she wouldn't even be able to formulate such ugly thoughts. If she seems to tread too lightly in life, as if she is mortified of unsettling the dust around other people, it is because she is so acutely aware and respectful of the boundaries other people have for themsleves. With Ruth, there is no games, no manipulation, no jealousy, and no selfishness. She is pure genuine decency incarnate, a walking, living, breathing example of the golden rule. If I had the good fortune of choosing between Ruth, and someone who would not repsect her because she wont leave her mark in the world, I would choose Ruth over them in a heartbeat.

    There is a curious effect that happens while watching this film. Because Ruth is such a shy sweet natured, and sad lonely person, it is hard not to have a lot of strong emotions about her. For me being a single straight male, she invokes a sincere profound feeling of deep love within me. I don't know how Sara Walker did it, but even after 20 years, I still manage to fall in love with Ruth every time I watch the film. I think that Ruth manages to spark these sublime feelings because the audience ends up feeling so sorry for her. By the third act, the viewer developes an urgent desire to rescue Ruth and keep her safe from all harm. That is precisely why the scene in which Lucille publicly chastises Ruth in front of the principle is so darn effective. Rather then seeing Ruth get treated with the love and respect that you know she deserves, you instead have to watch Lucille deliver a vicious condescending assault against her in front of an authority figure.

    During that painful scene, the principle has Ruth and Lucille in his office to question them about missing an entire semester during the last school year. At this point in the story, Lucille is no longer friends with her older sister, but instead resents Ruth as much as she does her Aunt Sylvie. Lucille, trying to convince the principle to give them extra homework so that they can catch up with the rest of the students in their respective grades, tells the principle that her attitude has indeed changed. It is when he starts to question Ruth about her attitude that Lucille speaks for her.
    " I don't know if she will work harder this year or not." Lucille begins in a cold calculated matter of fact tone.
    " She will or she won't, you can't really talk to her about practical things, they don't matter to her."
    When the principle asks Ruth what does matter to her, Ruth subsequently hangs her head even lower in dire self pity, only managing a feeble shrug in response. Frustraited, he tells her.
    " That's what I mean by a problem of attitude."
    " She hasn't figured out what matters to her yet." Lucille says defiantly, interrupting his inquisition of her older sister.
    " She likes trees, maybe she will become a botanist."

    In a lesser film, Lucille would of been turned into a villain that the audience is suppose to despise, but in Housekeeping, her actions are both heart breaking, and heroic. Lucille simply made the tough choice to join the real world, and since her sister failed to make the same leap, she had to move on without her. As painful as Lucille's decition was, Housekeeping also presents moments of astounding beauty. One scene ranks as one of the most sincere and simplistically beautiful cinematic moments ever created. Ruth and Aunt Sylvie are out on the lake late at night in a row boat. They are cold and uncomfortable, but choose to battle these feelings by telling each other what small comforts they wish they had at that moment.
    " I wish I had a piece of pie." Say's Aunt Sylvie.
    " I wish I had a hamburger." Ruth says while giggling.
    " Well I wish I had a mink coat." Aunt Sylvie replies.
    " I wish I had a hot water bottle." Say's Ruth.
    At that point, out of nowhere, Aunt Sylvie starts singing The American folk standard Goodnight Irene. During the chorus of the song, Ruth joins her, and their voices intertwine in wonderful harmony. Once done singing, Aunt Sylvie lays back with her hands behind her head, smiling with her eyes closed.
    " I'm getting a moon tan. " Aunt Sylvie says contently.

    It is my humble oppinion, that The Criterion Company needs to get on the ball and give this film back to the world ASAP. Not only because the world is being denied one of the greatest hidden cinematic gems of all time, but also because this film deserves the treatment that Criterion is known for. Housekeeping truly needs a "Where are they now" documentary, a 65 page booklet, full of pictures and linar notes from various literary scholars, and at least three different commentary tracks, including one by Marilyn robinson, the author of the equally wonderful novel. Part of me believes that housekeeping will be on DVD sooner rather then later. The tea leaves that I am examining for this determination, is that Housekeeping now exists on DVDR, and also that another grossly neglected movie gem" Inside Moves" from 1980, is now available on DVD for the first time. On a more personal level, I hope that my review will inspire some people to suggest this title to Criterion. Afterall, they can't keep ignoring my requests forever.

    P.S. I still ove you Sara "Ruth" Walker....more info
  • Best movie ever!
    This movie is my absolute favorite movie of all time. It is haunting and yet nostalgic--the commonplace events of childhood are contrasted with the growing distance between the two sisters, Ruthie and Lucille, and between Sylvie and Ruth, both introverted and socially awkward, and the rest of the town. The movie focuses on the sisters' Aunt Sylvie, who comes to live with them after their most recent caregivers leave. Their high expectations of her as a mother replacement give way to--in Lucille's case--disgust with her oddities and inability to act as others do. The scenery in the movie is breathtaking and the natural world plays a large role in this movie. The Aunt's belief in forest children who whisper "it is better to have nothing", and her total disdain for material possessions, offer a view of the world that is unique and compelling. The interaction between the two sisters is also a main attraction here. If you see the movie, read the book! One is not better then the other, they each offer something that the other medium cannot....more info
  • A perfect film ... in danger of disappearing forever
    If I were marooned on a desert island with a choice of five films to watch for the rest of eternity, this would easily make my list. It's a superb (and surprisingly restrained) adaptation by Scottish director Bill Forsyth of Marilynne Robinson's novel.

    The film, which like the novel is both darkly humorous and desperately sad, obviously posed a dilemma for Sony Pictures, who ultimately chose to market it as a "wacky comedy" about a "wacky aunt". This trivialized both the message of the film, which dealt with the real cost of both conformity and non-conformity, and the nuanced acting by the then largely-unknown cast - particularly the young actress Sara Walker.

    Special mention should also be made of the cinematography, which used the exquisite landscapes surrounding Nelson, British Columbia to represent the fictional town of Fingerbone, Washington - which is virtually a character in the film in its right (brooding, mysterious, and breathtaking by turns).

    WHEN will Sony finally wake up and release this gem of a film as a DVD?...more info
  • Wonderfully brilliant and deep!
    This movie portrays an excellent example of love through how Sylvie and Ruthie bond together. The sad part is how most people can not see what is truly important in life because of their priorities being too self-centered and judgmental. Sylvie and Ruthie are fully aware of all that is real, but simply enjoy "playing" upon their blessed imaginations. For example, Sylvie's story of children in the woods simply expresses how she grew up isolated from the rest of the world being different than her. Because the community people believed their ways were right and her ways were wrong, she knew the experience of being watched and observed. Leaving marshmallows on the tree branches expressed how she wished to be treated by others with acceptance rather than be forced to have to conform and "come out of" the woods. She was willing to conform superficially by "cleaning up" the house, but as in real life, selfish people can never be satisfied.

    The portion of the movie showing the floodwater in the house fits wonderfully with the character portrayal of Sylvie's eccentricity. Talk about accepting something you cannot change, she sure continues on as usual without emotional disturbance! Why not continue on with singing "Happy Birthday" while putting out a small fire?

    Or take the scene where Sylvie and Ruthie are out on the lake late at night. Sylvie talks about wondering how many bodies went down to the bottom because of the train derailment long ago. The way she says, "There is nothing to be afraid of," along with her calm swirling of the water with her hand, is a powerful expression of peace.

    Then take the part where the women in the community come to Ruthie's "rescue." Sylvie could no more get those women to understand what she meant by, "she's supposed to be sad," (meaning while Ruthie is adjusting to her sister's rejection) than Ruthie could get her sister to understand (or believe) that she (Ruthie) is fine. The movie does a good job at showing how people, as a whole, cannot see where there is anything fine about being so alone. The part where Sylvie explains to the girls about a woman who thought loneliness could be cured by having a family, succeeded at showing that loneliness is created by self.

    If, after watching this movie (or reading this book), doesn't get someone to comprehend why it is that eccentrics are a happier and more healthy group of people, then maybe it's because of being jealous. Most people think they need other people or things (events) from outside of self in order to be fine. It's okay to not enjoy this movie with its concepts, but it's not okay for others to judge those who can relate with it....more info
  • Poetic ode to nonconformity
    Housekeeping is a low key film with a fascinating theme --how people on the fringes of society must sometimes choose whether to conform or hold on to their differences. The central character in this film, Sylvie (Christine Lahti), is really beyond the bounds of conventionality. She is a very interesting and original character --highly eccentric in a believable rather than romanticized way. In a conservative small town in what appears to be the 1950s, Sylvie is a drifter who falls into the role of guardian for her two nieces Ruthie and Lucille. It is the two girls' responses to their aunt that determines the course of the tale. At first, they are both happy to have Sylvie around, but gradually their basic difference in tempermant becomes apparent. Lucille (Andrea Burchill) soon tires of the isolated existence with her sister and aunt in a disorderly house where newspapers are piled to the ceiling and countless cats have the run of the place. She prefers the company of her schoolmates and longs for acceptance in society. Ruthie (Sara Walker), on the other hand, is introverted and more of a dreamer. She and Sylvie grow closer while Lucille drifts away, eventually getting adopted by a teacher. The town begins to pressure Sylvie to conform and raise Ruthie in a conventional manner. At first, she tries to comply, but her attempts are futile; she obviously is not suited for domestic life. When she takes Ruthie on an overnight trip that includes riding a freight train with tramps, the whole town finds out and things come to a head. What is brilliant about Housekeeping is the way it honestly explores the price people must pay to retain their individuality. A more superficial approach would have made Sylvie a charming eccentric whom the whole town eventually loves. Instead, we get a harsher and more realistic truth --that the life Sylvie chooses cannot be reconciled with the demands of everyday life. Sylvie and Ruthie are not portrayed as inherently superior to the conventional townsfolk, although they are, it must be admitted, more sympathetic. We can, however, also see things from the locals' point of view. They believe, with some justification, that Sylvie is an irresponsible guardian. Housekeeping has many lyrical scenes that showcase the natural beauty of the Pacific Northwest. There is a melancholy, nostalgic feeling to the film, which is consistent with the novel (by Marilynne Robinson) on which it is based. This is a very thoughtful, poetic and original film, one of my favorites....more info
  • This movie is different
    This movie is totally different from other hollywood movies. It is hard to explain, but I really like this movie. This movie is quiet, but still gives me a lot of feeling. This is not like other hollywood movies which entertain you only for two hours. If you are sensitive enough, this is the one movie impress you for long time....more info
  • Seemless, Enjoyable Drama
    "Housekeeping" is an excellent film adaptation of the novel by Marilynne Robinson. It is engaging, seemlessly edited and beautifully photographed. Some characters and scenes have their humorous sides, but this movie is essentially a drama, a story of the extreme impact the arrival of an unconventional aunt has on two sisters in a small, 1950's northwestern town. Christine Lahti gives an Oscar-worthy portrayal of the aunt, and the supporting cast is strong, as well. The setting and time period are flawlessly portrayed.

    PLEASE, let this film be released on DVD someday soon! It is too good to be lost....more info
  • Haunting
    This film has haunted me deeply since I first saw it in 1987 at the age of 12. Cinematography, acting and direction each contribute to what is a beautifully crafted film. Such care and subtle attention to detail (both visual and aural) lead up to one of the most sublime endings in any film I have yet to see. ...more info
  • Running On Empty
    *** This comment may contain spoilers ***

    The movie tells the story of two young girls whom their mom brought to her home town in the Pacific Northwest and committed suicide at the same day. The girls stay with their proper and respectable grandmother but after her death, their aunt, eccentric, literally out of this world Sylvie arrived after long time to take care of her nieces. There is a mystery behind Sylvie's smile, behind her strange for the most population of the small town behavior - she collects empty tin cans and used newspapers, she loves to walk alone and to visit train station and a nearby mountain lake. Christine Lahti is the center of the movie as a lonely gentle woman who has lived through many disappointments and failures it seems and learned how to choose what is really important for her and not to pay attention what anyone would think of her. It is easier to live this way but Sylvie will have to learn how to get closer, to connect, and to love again. As time passes, one of the girls, Lucille is embarrassed by her aunt and leaves the house to live a normal life. Her sister, Ruthie, a shy, quiet and insightful girl identifies with Sylvie's longing for freedom and chooses to stay with her. There are gentle kindness, quiet sadness, the spirit of freedom and adventure, unspoken words, bitter disappointments, failures, search for love, for understanding and belonging in this movie. Christine Lahti is great - watching her reminded me of two remarkable movies, "Running On Empty" where Lahti played one of the main characters, the mother and wife in the family that had to be on the run and the devastating and profoundly moving "Vagabond" by Agnes Varda, the tragic search for absolute freedom.

    ...more info
  • Perfect sound for the film
    This film; Housekeeping is the only film I watched more than ten times. I asked myself the reason. The story, camerawork is pretty good. And the music caught my heart. Whenever I listen to the sound track, it takes me to another world or different dimention. It doesn't hit to anybody. If you are moved by the film, you should have possessed by the sound. If you had the same sensation, let me know. ken90210@tkh.att ne.jp...more info
  • Housekeeping the DEEP Movie.
    This movie is a deep movie, not a "A Tidy Comedy" as stated on the cover. Part tragedy, this film focuses on people who can't mind their own business. The ending is fantastic, with visual and time elements that allow the watcher to THINK. Wonderfully acted, wonderfully made. But this wasn't a hilarious movie as I thought it would be from the cover....more info