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December Bride Reviews

DECEMBER BRIDE, directed by Thaddeus O'Sullivan, conjures up early 20th-century rural Northern Ireland to tell a melancholy tale of a spirited woman who rejects social and religious constraints to live her own independent life. Sarah (Saskia Reeves) is a young woman who finds employment in the home of Andrew Echlin (Geoffrey Golden), who dies soon after while rescuing his two sons and Sarah during a storm at sea. Without their father's religious prodding, Hamilton (Donal McCann) and Frank (Ciaran Hinds) quit attending services at the local Presbyterian church, and Sarah follows their example. She also follows each of the young men into bed and is soon pregnant. In a gesture of defiance, Sarah refuses to marry either of the men and, when she has a baby girl, gives the child her own surname. Eighteen years later, she agrees to wed Hamilton, so her daughter, now grown, can, herself, marry "respectably." Written by David Rudkin, based on a novel by Sam Hanna Bell, this 1991 Irish film is a modest story which barely occupies its 88-minute running time. Its windswept settings, captured eloquently by cinematographer Bruno de Keyzer, are certainly picturesque, and Consolata Boyle's costumes are up to her usual high standard, but the film rarely rises above the level of an interesting anecdote with pre-feminist aspirations. But Reeves, familiar to art-house patrons as the attractive, ambitious Antonia in Beeban Kidron's 1991 British release ANTONIA & JANE, gives a richly nuanced performance which transforms Sarah's rebelliousness into something more timeless, a denunciation of hypocrisy amid the grinding poverty that can silence even an obstinate soul. (Sexual situations.)