Based on the popular novel , Tuck Everlasting is a magical and at times moving fantasy that ponders deep questions and boasts a wonderful cast. While it might not be to all tastes, Tuck Everlasting may very well surprise you. Especially because it’s not something I imagined would come from Disney but somehow works.
It’s the early 1900’s and rich teenager Winnie Foster( Alexis Bledel) feels constricted by society and how she’s never allowed to have any adventure. She’s largely confined to her house , where her parents smother her with rules and restrictions. Her mother Mrs. Foster( Amy Irving) is prim and proper , while her father Mr. Foster ( Victor Garber) is often busy . Winnie becomes more frustrated with her life when she’s informed that she’ll be going to a boarding school. Angry, she runs off into the woods that she’s been forbidden to enter. Finding herself lost, she meets a handsome young man called Jesse Tuck(Jonathan Jackson) . He’s secretive but before they can connect, Jesse’s brother Miles(Scott Bairstow) takes Winnie with him back to his family. Here Winnie meets the mother and father of the Tuck family, Mae(Sissy Spacek) and Angus(William Hurt). The family live in a wooden house, sheltered on the lake and among beautiful scenery . The family are hesitant over what to do with Winnie as they are clearly hiding from something . After initial uncertainty because of their secretive ways, the family warms to Winnie. As she spends more time with them, Winnie becomes entranced with how they live and finds trusted comfort with them. Jesse eventually reveals the secret of his family; they are immortal having drank water from a spring within the woods. Though they are a close family and live life with some sense of freedom, the Tuck’s have a few feelings of regret and sometimes question what they did. In the meantime, Winnie grows closer to the family. Unfortunately for Winnie and the Tuck’s, especially Jesse, who she has fallen in love with, darkness may be on the horizon. A mysterious Man in a Yellow Suit ( Ben Kingsley) has arrived with an intention on discovering their secret to immortality and wants to exploit it. And it seems he’ll resort to anything to get his wicked hands on it. Winnie’s parents also send out a massive search party to find their runaway daughter. With both of these things hanging over the summer that will change everything, the big question falls to Winnie. Will she drink from the spring to become immortal or decide against it and grow old like everyone else?
Director Jay Russell conjures up a pretty magical movie that takes innocence and the pressures of growing up and infuses them with summer adventure. He’s clearly got great admiration for the source material and doesn’t feel the need to over simplify for children, yet not alienate older viewers either. The visuals are simply gorgeous; long sweeping shots of woodland, dreamy dissolves between scenes and a sense of bittersweet reverie that colours every frame. Even the most cynical of people is likely to be charmed by this warm-hearted yet wistful movie that explores deep issues with heart and a soulfulness. Where other movies fail when trying to straddle both kid friendly content and weighty issues, Tuck shines. While some little moments get a tad saccharine, it steers to the right side of sentiment and heart that is hard to resist or fault. It’s a movie that can be incredibly moving too with the big question of immortality and eternal life at the centre . I mean I think the prospect has been something that has been of interest to people for centuries and is a concept that is most intriguing. An eloquent, wistful and stirring score from William Ross highlights the often bittersweet nature of the film, but also the beauty and mystical energy involved too.
Heading the cast is the young Alexis Bledel , who gives a very fine performance. Bledel embodies the stifled feeling of caught in the need for adventure and wrestling with the prospect of growing up. A lot of the movie rests on her shoulders, but Bledel, with her blue eyes and genuine demeanour ,rises to the challenge of capturing a girl at the point of womanhood with a very difficult dilemma at her door. Plus she has very convincing chemistry with Jonathan Jackson as the main Tuck of the film. The aforementioned Jackson brings an incredibly earnest charm to his part and has enthusiasm to burn. Veteran stars William Hurt and Sissy Spacek bring experience, depth and honesty to their roles. Both Spacek and Hurt convey so much often without words and bring true class and heartfelt emotion to Tuck Everlasting. William Hurt possesses the wisdom of someone who cares deeply for his family, while Sissy Spacek beautifully portrays a genuine maternal warmth as the glue of the family in times of upheaval. Scott Bairstow is mainly left to glower and snarl as the resentful brother, though he does get one pretty emotional scene. On villainous duty and doing it in suitably stylish taste is the ever watchable Ben Kingsley. Complete with something quite unnerving, his skill for flattery and slippery way with words , Kingsley makes the main villain quite creepy and someone you really want to not succeed in his wicked plan. Amy Irving and Victor Garber , though not given the most to do, effectively embody the kind of parenting from a time gone by with strictness and want to please the rigid rules of society.
While Tuck Everlasting may not appeal to certain demographics or audiences( the Disney label might put some off), I’d say they are missing out on a very lovely and wistful story. With a blend of innocence and maturity, Tuck Everlasting is a winning fantasy in my book and one to treasure.