The Secret Of Moonacre


The long awaited British Premiere of the film based on the Elizabeth Goudge book The Little White Horse.

Taken from The London Film Festival Website

Maria Merryweather (Dakota Blue Richards) has recently been orphaned and, despite great expectations, her sole inheritance is an illustrated book entitled The Secret Chronicles of Moonacre Valley. She is sent to live with her cold, reserved Uncle (Ioan Gruffudd) along with her companion Miss Heliotrope (Juliet Stevenson). Maria discovers that the book provides a key to a past world and a secret that must be revealed before the rising of the 5,000th moon, when Moonacre will disappear into the ocean forever. A number of questions must be answered if she is to save them all. What is the curse on Moonacre Manor, her new home, which despite its beautiful exterior is dilapidated and cold, and who are the sinister, dark-clothed men who live in the forest and seem intent on capturing Maria?

Juliet Stevenson as Miss Heliotrope

Our Family Gala this year is directed by Gabor Csupo who last visited the LFF in 2002 with The Wild Thornberry’s Movie and has since gone on to make the hugely successful Bridge to Terabithia. Based on The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge, The Secret of Moonacre is a hugely enjoyable family adventure which, despite having a fairytale sensibility where unicorns, black lions and moon princesses play their part, never loses touch with the strong story and performances that ensure its universal appeal.
Justin Johnson

Directed by:Gabor CsupoWritten by:Graham Alborough, Lucy Shuttleworth Cast:Ioan Gruffudd, Dakota Blue Richards, Juliet Stevenson, Tim Curry, Natasha McElhone Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures International UK Country: UK-Hungary Year: 2008 Running time: 103min

Editors Reply

Could someone tell me where the “great expectations” have come from? Mine were certainly gone, my heart sank just reading the film synopsis and plummeted after viewing the trailer.

Maria and Miss Heliotrope are grateful to be taken in and befriended in a hostile world. Maria has no inheritance, and they are over whelmed and pleasantly surprised by the warm, welcoming, sunny, open handed Sir Benjamin, not repelled by some morose Heathcliff imitation who glowers at them. Marmaduke Scarlet has had his dignity and talent stripped from him and been replaced by some “magical” elf. Poor Miss Heliotrope is no longer Maria’s Governess but a “companion”. Why? Surely it is not so anachronistic a concept that today’s audience wouldn’t understand it? On her way to her new home with her companion, Maria’s carriage is attacked by Robin, the Coq De Noir family’s teenage son.

Robin from Secret of Moonarce

Poor Robin transformed into a “hoodie” with the nightmare of Coq du Noir as Father, presumably in an attempt to up date him. Both he and Maria are denied the comfort and security of Loveday as a Mother, she becomes instead a strange priestess like figure, the tragic Moon Princess. Finally Wrolf, the noble Wrolf a symbol of the strength, courage and faithfulness of the best of the Sun Merryweathers morphs into a black panther with a ruff.
The black men do not want to capture Maria until Robin and herself invade their castle and throw down a challenge. Points and plot seem to have been changed for no intrinsic reason except they can be. It neither enhances the tale or moves the plot on quickly over those inconvenient explanations and character analysis that authors will insist in including in their work!

Maria has to unravel the key to the mystery herself, there is no book to help her, she must grow into her inheritance, and why O why does the 5000th moon and the lost Land of Lyonesse make an appearance?
” The brave soul and the pure spirit shall with a merry and a loving heart inherit the kingdom together.” The Lion and the Unicorn of the heraldic device, which represents a fusion of the best of both worlds have tumbled off the mantelpiece. I feel as if a hammer has been taken to one of Elizabeth’s “little things” smashing it into unrecognisable pieces. All the delicacy and depth of the book has been removed.

It seems to me that this type of film sets a dangerous precedent. Elizabeth’s works are full of the kind of magic that surrounds us every day. We don’t have to travel to another realm to encounter it. There are no instant cures for the ills of this earth. In all her work she tries to show us how we can make our time here count by caring for it and for all the people who we come into contact with. We can make our own magic and can see the wonder of the natural world performing little daily miracles all around us.

The Company have taken a wonderful story that blends the Spiritual with the Mundane world seamlessly and turned it into a film of the, forgive me, Harry Potter mode. Elizabeth’s work presumably being thought of as too subtle for a modern audience, who are used to special effects to make points for them. Lets face it, we all knew that the film would not resemble the book that so many of us know and love as our first introduction to Elizabeth Goudge’s work. Perhaps it would be best to see it as The Secret Of Moonacre, and forget that it was ever anything to do with Elizabeth Goudge in the first place. But this then begs the question of what pulls it above other films of its genre. After viewing the trailer I did not feel inclined to make the long and complicated journey to London’s West End to find out.

Deborah Gaudin



  1. Thank you Ms. Gaudin, I enjoyed your appreciation of the novel and an sure I agree with the relative merits of the book and the movie. I am new to Ms. Goudge and this site and wondered if the family motto “The brave soul and the pure spirit shall with a merry and a loving heart inherit the kingdom together” has an independent source or is an invention of Ms. Goudge?

    • Lovely to hear from you. The family motto that Elizabeth uses in this book is her own, but I think she must have been inspired by the Christian Credo. She was a practising Christian all her life and her father was a keen student of all faiths in particular the Catholic. Although he lived and worked as a High Anglican minister in a number of cathedral cities.
      Thank you for visiting the site. ” film of the book” is usually a disaster, as we all have preconceptions as to how the characters look, speak and act. Something as well crafted and timeless as “The Little White Horse” should, I feel be left between its pages and the readers heart and imagination.

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