It's 1861, and Caroline Hartley (Booth) is holidaying in Switzerland with her 18-year-old ward Elinor (Alvarado). While out walking, the impressionable teen spies bookish Oxford don Francis Ashby (Palin) through her telescope (both a literal and figurative device: as she attempts to draw Ashby out, the film focuses on what Palin has described as 'fragments of life'). From that moment on, their destinies are linked, but the gulf in their ages (he's 46) and backgrounds provides endless hurdles. This was a personal project for co-writer and star Palin, inspired by his great-grandfather's diaries. The restrained interplay and gentle gibes at English mores are precisely balanced against the forces of intellectual and emotional change, and the mood is subtle, conveying both regret and expectation in equal measure. A film of small pleasures.
Cast and crew
|Screenwriter:||Michael Palin, Tristram Powell|