A remake of the 1971 drama starring Clint Eastwood, director Sophia Coppola opts to tell the same story from the women's point of view. The original was a star vehicle for Mr. Eastwood and contained it's share of action and stereotyped women to play off the sexual tension created by the plot. Ms. Coppola downplays the action and gives more personality to the residents of the girls school where the wounded Union soldier (now played by Colin Farrell) finds himself recuperating.
The film takes place in 1864, three years into the Civil War. Nicole Kidman plays the matron of the southern Virginia school who is left in charge of just a few students (including Ellie Fanning) and one teacher played by Kirsten Dunst. When the youngest charge, Amy ( a very good Oona Laurence) finds Corporal John McBurney (Mr. Farrell) in the woods and brings him back to the school, it creates an immediate tension as the women and girls all find themselves drawn to him and taken in by his charms.
The story is a slow burn of sexual tension, filmed by Ms. Coppola in natural light and sound with very little music. Credit her originality but her choices don't necessarily work. The candlelight hides most of the film in near darkness and the substitution of chirping birds and insects do little to heighten the tension, the way a strong score would have done.
The acting is first rate but the pace of the film and lack of any real action, slows everything down to a crawl. There are repeated shots of the mansion and trees that add nothing. Ms. Coppola may be asking "just who is beguiling who?" but it becomes a bore answering that question.