“ Genre: Children's DVDs / Universal, suitable for all / Director: Gillian Armstrong / Actors: Susan Sarandon, Winona Ryder, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes, Gabriel Byrne ... / DVD released 2000-03-17 at Sony Pictures Home Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL „
This is a charming film adaptation of the novel by Louise May Alcott. It follows the four March sisters during the American Civil War as they survive severe austerity whilst their father fights in the south. Whilst not the main character at the very start, Jo, the second-eldest child (played by Winona Ryder) becomes the prominent character in the film as we see her attachment to Laurie, the son of a wealthy neighbour, her quest to be a writer and her eventual departure from the family home as she seeks opportunities in New York. The story focuses quite heavily on family relations, sisterly jealousy and rift, as well as the kindness they show each other, their family spirit during a difficult economic time and their youthful adventures before the realities of adulthood take their hold on all of them.
Made in 1994, it might seem rather dated now with a young Winona Ryder and a very young Kirsten Dunst - just 12 years old when the film was made, but quite honestly the cast are all the better for it. Dunst acts with the same childhood innocence as she showed in "Interview with a Vampire" whilst the likes of Christian Bale are virtually unrecognisable in such youthful form. Indeed, Bale's presence in this film paints him in a much different light to that of more recent films: anyone aware of his much-reported outbursts on the set of Terminator Salvation would find it difficult to believe that the Bale in Little Women would be capable of such behaviour. Susan Sarandon is as reliable as ever in the role of Mrs March and a young Clare Danes plays the part of Beth with a real delicacy.
Few mainstream films have been made about the American Civil War, particularly what life was like for families in the Northern states whilst their fathers and brothers were fighting in the South. The film might not be completely historically accurate either but the girls' story is the main focus and one which enraptures the viewer through their various ups and downs. Of course, such a film would demand a happy ending and viewers are thoroughly satisfied with the one they're given. The happy ending is not without a turbulent journey, however, and the film charts this journey beautifully.
This is a great family film and with extensive wintry scenes, perhaps a good choice for a cold Sunday afternoon.