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Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) grows up an orphan in the care of St Clouds, which is run by the wise and caring Dr Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine), who also performs illegal abortions on young women - like the pert and perky Candy (Charlize Theron) who comes with her fiancee, the volunteer soldier Wally (Paul Rudd). Dr Larch teaches Homer in many ways, including the notions of being useful - and of the occasional need to break the rules for a greater good. When Candy and Wally leave, Homer, now a young man, hitches a ride into the big wide world, to Dr Lurch's dismay. Wally takes Homer to his family's apple orchard to work as a picker, before heading off to the war. But it's not all apples, as Homer's heart is picked by Candy's charms. This is one thing Dr Larch hadn't quite prepared Homer for - falling in love, especially with another man's fiancée. Meanwhile, Dr Larch wants Homer back to run the orphanage. . .

"This film plays like reading a book; it has the same suggestive powers and triggers the same complex processes in the mental and emotive cortex as a novel, ballooning each episode, each scene, each character beyond the represented image. It is an example of the dovetailing of all the cinematic arts and crafts, with cohesive performances and coherent direction - and a marvelous, meticulous, subtle screenplay. Toby Maguire, the young actor who infuses the central character, deserves special attention for his detailed, nuanced yet unmannered portrait of a young man in unique circumstances - whose life we come to care about. Michael Caine hasn't been better since Educating Rita, and Charlize Theron defies the stereotypical blonde with a dynamic and dimensional character portrait of the young woman who doesn't do 'lonely' very well. Supports are fabulous, too, strikingly affecting and memorable. The production design and music are equally superb, engulfing with their attention to detail without being fussy. The title comes from an episode in the film which alludes to Homer's education in matters of life: sometimes rules do need to be broken to fix things up. Engaging in both emotional and intellectual terms, The Cider House Rules is a mature film with complex characters and a satisfying, underplayed sensibility that should appeal to a broad, mature audience. It never condescends, but often amuses even as it plays with some of the earnest issues of our lives."
Andrew L. Urban

"If you like your films brimming with emotional colours, The Cider House Rules is a rainbow waiting to be discovered. From the very first notes of Rachel Portman's distinctive musical staircase our senses are aroused and enticed into a world rich with love, laughter and joy. The different worlds of the orphanage and the apple orchard are far apart, yet have the same need for rules. But as we discover, rules often need to be broken… Richly poignant, this is a hugely enjoyable film that captures a mood of optimistic discovery, hope and dreams. Lasse Hallström's strong sense of the visual embraces John Irving's wonderful screenplay that glows onscreen, the cinematography beautifully describing picturesque settings that change seasonally. The apple orchard scenes, with playful light dancing on the leaves flicker through my mind's eye, as does the overwhelming emotional gravitas. This is a good role for Michael Caine, who has never been better. He delivers an extraordinary performance as a man whose convictions are as strong as his sense of responsibility: his presence is strong, the effect profound. Tobey Maguire (memorable from Pleasantville) is sublimely subtle, the complex layers visible beneath the wide-eyed innocence. Cider House Rules explores the indestructible bond between these two men and the paths they follow. The whole cast is solid – Delroy Lindo (always commanding), sparkling Charlize Theron and a chocolate box of irresistible children who will win your heart. Our emotions are stirred - gently and effectively. Powerful yet subtle, enticing and totally captivating, The Cider House Rules should be savoured."
Louise Keller

"Worthy if a little dull is probably the best summation of Lasse Hallström's adaptation of the third John Irving novel to reach the screen following The World According To Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire. Much of the interest centres on the notoriously indiscriminate Michael Caine finally knuckling down and delivering a performance worthy of his talent. Apart from an accent which leaves you puzzled as to which part of America he's supposed to be from, Caine is in top form as the caring medico with a weakness for ether and a forthright pro-choice attitude when it comes to unwanted pregnancy. His scenes with the equally outstanding Tobey Maguire form the strong centrepiece of the early sections set in the orphanage where the master-pupil/father-son relationship is detailed with warmth and impressive truth. Less effective are the longuers once Homer ventures into the world to discover sex, love and the dark side of human nature. All the elements are there but sluggish pacing makes the drama crawl rather than fly and Homer's rites of passage take on the weight of Hercules' labours under Hallström's well-intentioned but overly precious direction. This film has its heart in the right place and there are some genuinely moving scenes, particularly at the orphanage as children wait desperately to be chosen by window shopping couples and in the final passages which are heart-breakingly honest. Trimming here and there might have made something very special out of this but even with the flaws its integrity and quality performances make it worthwhile viewing."
Richard Kuipers

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by European correspondent
Jorn Rossing-Jensen


CAST: Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd, Michael Caine, Kathey Baker, Erykah Badu, Kieran Culkin, Kate Nelligan, Heavy D

DIRECTOR: Lasse Hollstrom

PRODUCER: Richard Gladstein,

SCRIPT: John Irving (from his novel)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Oliver Stapleton B.S.C.

EDITOR: Lisa Zeno Churgin

MUSIC: Rachel Portman


RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 13, 1999

VIDEO RELEASE: July 4, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

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