Dir. Lasse Hallström
Starring: Toby Maguire, Michael Caine, Charlize Theron, Paul Rudd
In the cider house on the
Worthington farm where the
migrant workers lodge there is a piece of paper tacked up on the wall. This
piece of paper holds a set of rules for life there. There are five, they are
quite fatuous, and they are roundly ignored by the residents. “Someone who don’t live here made them
rules” Mr Rose (Delroy Lindo) says. “Those
rules ain’t for us. We are supposed to make our own rules. And we do. Every
The story behind The Cider House Rules is very amoral. Or, perhaps, very moral. It is about deciding who you want to be and making your own rules for life. Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) is raised at
St. Cloud’s Orphanage by
Dr Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine). Larch runs the orphanage and acts in a
paternal role towards the children under his care. Pregnant women make their way
to St. Cloud’s
and he relieves them of their unwanted burden – either by delivering the babies
or by aborting them. Abortions are illegal, but he has decided that the
greatest good is achieved by a trained doctor performing them rather than
leaving the women to run the risks attached to backstreet terminations. Homer
comes to assist Dr Larch – but he decides that while he will deliver babies he
will not abort them. Regardless, Wilbur expects the young man he has come to
regard as a son to follow in his footsteps. To preserve the practice he is even
willing to forge medical credentials in Homer’s name. It is the best way he can
think of to keep St. Cloud’s
But Homer writes his own story. He leaves for the coast to work as an apple picker. Having never lived for long outside the orphanage he is very innocent. He has never seen the ocean. He has only ever watched one movie. And his heart has never been exposed to the complexities of the outside world. The people he lives and works alongside teach him to break rules. He betrays a friend. He lies. He kills. The lying and the killing are designed to protect someone but all the same he has learnt that there are no absolutes. “Sometimes ya gotta break some rules to put things straight” as Mr Rose puts it. The world in which we live is one of moral relativism. It is easier to let other people make the rules for you and decide your fate. Writing your own story is the hardest thing of all.
Dr. Larch believes that men should play God with their own lives (given his expressed scorn towards Christianity it is a safe bet that he does not believe that there is a real God). To him, the opposite of playing God is “leaving practically everything up to chance. Men and women of conscience should seize those moments where it’s possible to play God. There won’t be many.” Candy (Charlize Theron) is incapable of deciding what she wants, torn between her feelings for Homer and Wally (Paul Rudd). Her relationship with Homer has not been pre-ordained. It just sort of happens. They “wait and see” and don’t make any decisions about it, and that allows the affair to continue. The imminent return of a wounded Wally changes that. She has to make a decision. But she can’t. And so Homer makes it for her. Homer recognises her state of mind: “Maybe if I just wait and see long enough then I won’t have to do anything or decide anything, you know? I mean, maybe if I’m lucky enough, someone else will decide and choose and do things for me.” He decides to make way for Wally and go back to
|Making movies with Michael Caine and Tobey Maguire|
I said earlier that in many ways the film is quite amoral. Homer’s various adventures can be preparation for him having to make the right, moral choice – and abort a foetus. The abortion debate is presented quit matter-of-factly: either a trained and qualified doctor will conduct the termination or the woman will resort to a dangerous backstreet procedure. And in actual fact, those unwanted babies that are not aborted, but are kept at the orphanage seem to have quite a lot of fun. I found the opening scenes of children running around the halls while a cheerful soundtrack plays in the background a bit jarring once I realised Dr. Larch was conducting operations. The relationship between Mr Rose and his daughter Rose (Erykah Badu) also isn’t particularly questioned, other than that it would necessitate an abortion. To be honest, there are some things that call for greater discussion really. The situations in the film are presented, but then not ever particularly debated. Still, the screenplay, adapted from his own novel by John Irving, was awarded the Oscar, so who am I to carp? Michael Caine also won an Oscar for his performance as the fatherly Dr. Larch. I didn’t even know that he could do an American accent!
What have I learnt about
It is famous for its apples, its cider and its lobsters. I think I could survive quite comfortably there on that diet. The
Atlantic Ocean breaks right up on
shore and is quite, quite beautiful.
is regarded as a desirable attribute (if you cannot be born in Maine, at least be from New England).
Anyone from outside Maine
is an “immigrant”.
There is full expression of the seasons in
The autumns are golden brown, and snow lies on the ground in winter.
Can we go there?
The locations in the story are fictional. There is no orphanage at St. Clouds because there is no St. Clouds. From the film we are lead to believe that it is on the
and Aroostook Railroad (a real life railroad that lead north from Bangor to cover the north-eastern section of Maine). However the
railway used for filming – complete with steam engines – was Vermont’s Green Mountain Railroad. The St. Cloud
railway station was actually the Bellows Fall halt near Rockingham.
As for the orphanage, the instantly-recognisable exterior was Ventfort Hall in Lenox, western
It now houses a museum of the ‘Gilded Age’ and can be visited. Interiors were
shot in Northampton, Massachusetts
– at the former Northampton State Hospital
for instance (which has now been torn down).
Similarly the Ocean View Orchards at
don’t really exist. Homer’s
first sight of the ocean is in Cape Kenneth Maine
however. It is Sand Beach in . Candy
lives by the sea in what is, in real life, Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bernard. Both are on Acadia
National Park Mount Desert Island.
Certainly seems like a good spot to stop for dinner! The Worthington
estate does not have an ocean view however; it is located inland, in Vermont. The Scott Farm north of Brattleboro is used.
The cider house is actually the Sugar House, which can be rented for stays.
Overall Rating: 3/5