Inkheart works well. In part it does so because of the timing of its release – it’s not rocket science that December is the time for tales and the capturing of imaginations – but there’s an indication here that Iain Softley has sensitively and dutifully pulled together a film adapted from Corneila Fluke’s novel. The film – and indeed book – is slightly sighted at ‘Potter -lovers’ and those whose hungers have been awoken by Rowling, but let’s not hold that against a good film with an honest message.
The plot remains mostly faithful to the book it seems, and the casting is good, too. Brendan Fraser is surely the only working actor today who could so effectively pull off the ‘determined father in a world crossed with fiction’ role which faces Mo ‘Silvertongue’ Folchaart. And, of course, he does so with the skills you’d expect of the man who is partial to banishing dangers of legend.
For once he’s not the hero of the piece, however, and that duty falls to Meggie Folchart (Eliza Bennett) a young lady who, though it seems like she should be studying hard in Hogwarts, instead finds herself in one of those terribly awkward positions. You know, the position of knowing your parents are hiding something from you, wondering where exactly your mother’s been all these years (hiding herself a little too well). Why does your Dad keep looking for copies of a book called ‘Inkheart’, and how did you end up with a tempestuous, and humourously vocal great aunt like Elinor Loredan (the superb Helen Mirren)? Bennett carries off the role well enough to endear her to those of a near age-group, and the child hook is covered by her bewildered viewing of, and increased importance in, the bizarre and unreal occurrences surrounding her.
From the adult perspective, Fraser’s just like any other parent, attempting to protect his daughter from a world full of criminals. The truth of what happened to her mother is a secret she cannot be made privy to, and he whisks her away from any potential danger he spies. While there will be some dallying on whether Mo is doing the best by his daughter from the parents among the audience, even the more senior members will be more taken with the story’s dominant main drive: that Inkheart proves the mouthpiece for the potency of literary worlds.
That it first did so in book-form was a piece of genius self-reflexivity from Ms Fluke, referencing every tale ever told by creating a world where the fantasy and real overlap all too easily. That the idea translates – indeed blossoms – as a more visual medium, sort of solidifies the point. ‘Every story ever written is just waiting to become real’ is the hugely optimistic and ‘wishy-washy’ tagline here, but its point is proven by the existence of Inkheart the film and its attribute of being pretty well watchable.
The tag does hit harder because it carries with it all the joy anyone has ever experienced in a favourite book or classic story, but that’s more a reason to see what’s on offer than to rail against it. Of course, only the most hardened cynic of denying the imagination and tales spun from the nibs of authors might stand against the film’s and book’s desires to blur the boundaries of real and imagined worlds, but this reviewer isn’t one of those. I was taken in, and for the duration sat contentedly enjoying an effortlessly capable cast – kudos to the bumbling author, Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent), the A-grade fictional criminal, Capricorn (Andy Serkis), and the cowardly heroic Dustfinger (Paul Bettany) for excellent work.
Educated direction from Softley, and a story with a point I wholeheartedly agree with, pretty much topped it off. The point is, of course, that books are vitally important to our sense of creativity. Inkheart proves it.