Reviewed by Kate Rodger
Whale Rider director Niki Caro takes on a very different book adaptation with The Vinter’s Luck, this one based on the critically acclaimed novel by New Zealand author Elizabeth Knox.
Set in 19th century France, The Vintner’s Luck is a tale of lustful passion among the vines, among man and woman and angel, and full of the promise of a good vintage.
Central to the story is peasant winemaker Sobran (Jérémie Renier), and his search for the perfect wine. The other loves of his life are his wife, his mistress, and his angel.
Keisha Castle-Hughes leaves the innocence of Paikea behind her, as Sobran's lusty peasant wife Celeste.
With American actress Vera Farmiga, Belgian Jérémie Renier, and Frenchman Gaspard Ulliel completing the main cast, there is a very international flavour to this Niki Caro vintage.
For those who still associate Niki and Keisha with Whale Rider, be warned this is nothing like their first outing. This is a coming-of-age role for Castle-Hughes, and she approaches her change in character boldly and with confidence.
Farmiga, familiar to many for her recent roles in The Departed and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is excellent as Aurora, Sobran’s wealthy mistress and benefactor. She is his more earthly guardian angel of sorts, who supports her lover in his quest to make the perfect wine.
Sobran’s other angel is Xas (Gaspard Ulliel). Xas is a real angel who appears to Sobran once a year through his life, drawn to his friend’s human frailty and bearing dark secrets of his own. Man and angel fall in love, a relationship fraught from the outset.
There is nothing mainstream about this story, which in itself is certainly no fault. But it does make it hard to gauge where the film will find an audience, and it has certainly divided both audiences and critics alike since its premiere.
For me, The Vintner’s Luck was a gorgeous collection of imagery, sound and movement, with moments of intoxicating beauty. But the very challenging narrative failed to ignite on the big screen. It was an ambitious project to adapt this tale, and while it’s in no way a failure, it’s certainly not a triumph.
The Vintner’s Luck
:: Director: Niki Caro
:: Starring: Jérémie Renier, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Vera Farmigar
:: Running Time: 127 mins
:: Rating: M - Sex Scenes
:: Release Date: November 12, 2009
:: Trailer: Click here