Directed by: Richard LaGravenese
Ah, here we have yet another teen love story involving mythical creatures, only this time not only is it witches (or, in their terminology “Casters”) but it is actually well-written, nicely directed, and believably acted. Based on the eponymous novel by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl in their Caster Chronicles series of Young Adult novels, the film follows the story of 15-year-old Lena Duchannes (Englert) who has recently arrived in the small town of Gatlin, SC. Turns out that she is the cousin of the mysterious and reclusive family that founded the town, and still lives at the very edge of it in a spooky old mansion.
As if that weren’t bad enough, the Ravenwoods are reputed to be devil-worshipers by the good Christian folk of the town. Turns out that isn’t so much the truth, but they are Witches (or Casters”), needless to say, shortly after her arrival, Lena meets Ethan Wate (Ehrenreich) who — as it turns out — is not only totally infatuated with her, but has apparently dreaming about her for months. Ethan has been longing to get out of Gatlin his whole life and is going to use the possibility of attending college as his ticket out. As Ethan begins to spend more time with Lena, he quickly gets more than he bargained for, as Lena — who will come into the fullness of her mystical powers on her 16th birthday — is being courted by both the light and dark sides of her nature.
The budding romance between Lena and Ethan is threatened by the dangers posed by Lena’s powers as well as her family’s Dark background. Complicating the young lover’s courtship is Lena’s very protective Uncle Macon Ravenwood (Irons) and the reappearance of her long-thought dead mother, Sarafine (Thompson) who has inhabited the body of the mother of Ethan’s best friend and next door neighbor, Mrs. Lincoln. Thrown into the mix is the fact that Ethan’s mother died in a car crash years ago (and was apparently known to Macon), plus there is the equally mysterious Amma (Viola Davis) who was friends with Eathan’s mom and now helps look after him, as his dad has been mostly absent since his mom’s death.
Amma also has some mystical abilities, and — as the town’s librarian — watches over secret tomes that may help Lena get past the curse that haunts her and help her down the path to the light rather than to the dark that wishes to consume her very soul. Then, just to make matters even more interesting there seems to be some sort of psychic connection between the young lovers, which emerges as their story unfolds. As an aside, one of the things that we really liked about this film is how Lena comments that calling them “witches” is sort of like calling the smart kids “nerds” of the athletes “Jocks” as this is simply who they are and what they do. Well acted, and very nicely directed, this film (and presumably those that follow it if it does well enough at the box office) will hopefully fill the aching void left in the heart of lovesick tweenies and their cougar moms by the conclusion of the Twilight series.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web.