Cinema: The Cider House Rules

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

John Irving's rural sprawl of a novel becomes, in his screenplay, a small epic with subtle strengths. The setting is harsh--a Maine orphanage in the early '40s, with war and sexual abuse looming--but the mood is warm and precise, as a flinty, laudanum-addicted doctor (the excellent Michael Caine) tutors his brightest charge (Tobey Maguire, the most watchful of young actors) to be his protege. Hallstrom, here as in My Life as a Dog and What's Eating Gilbert Grape, lets the characters carry the story without allowing the actors to push too hard. This is a film with the wisdom to see...

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