Fairy Tale

Based on the famous case of the Cottingley fairies during the second world war. Instead of being 16 and 10, Frances and Elsie are little girls and cousins, Elsie with bereaved parents following the death of her brother, Frances innocently hoping for her father's return from the war after being declared missing in action.

The movie follows the actual story - how theosophist Edward Gardner became involved after Elsie's mother has attended a meeting of the society to see if it can help her grieving for her son. No less than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (O'Toole) staked his reputation on the authenticity of the girls' claims and the photos they took which swept the world and sparked a new interest in the spirit world.

Two fictional aspects are added. The presence of Harry Houdini (Keitel) in the story as a friend of Doyle's, and the fact that the fairies are real and visit the girls in the stream at the back of the beck (forest) behind their house.

The 'documentary' aspects of the film (of the ensuing wave of interest, press harassment, political machinations of Doyle putting his name behind the claim are actually more interesting than the kids-movie subplot (or rather, primary plot) of the fairies being real, but it's a G-rated kids movie, and the target audience probably thought there was too much of adults talking and not enough of fairy queens knitting and dewdrops on flowers.

Both girls are cute and good actresses, the special effects are a little rough around the edges and the story goes off onto small tangents that don't seem to add to the whole, but it's a good conversation point if the real story interests you.

I've often thought the Cottingley fairies story would be a great film to make because of the period of history in which it's set; good cinematography could produce lyrical and beautiful images and textures of fine home fittings, cotton play dresses, hair ribbons and shady wooded glades, and while it isn't a prominent feature here, the production is well designed.

Don't blink in the very last frame or you'll miss Mel Gibson (whose Icon Productions produced the movie) as Frances' father returning home form the war, a homecoming foretold by the presence of the fairies.

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