Seventeen-year-old Cassandra (ROMOLA GARAI) lives in a dilapidated castle in Suffolk with her eccentric family. Her father, Mortmain (BILL NIGHY), is a reclusive writer who has been suffering from writer’s block ever since the publication of his highly-acclaimed debut novel twenty years previously. His wife died some years ago, and Mortmain is now married to Topaz, a beautiful and bohemian former artists’ model who is several years younger than him. Cassandra has a younger brother, Thomas (JOE SOWERBUTTS), and an older sister, Rose (ROSE BYRNE); Rose is the beauty of the family who has long been desperate to escape the family’s impoverished circumstances. Lastly there is Stephen (HENRY CAVILL), who works for the family (unpaid) but is more like a sibling. While Stephen adores Cassandra, she doesn’t share the same feelings. The family is thrown into crisis when Mortmain’s royalty statement – their financial lifeline – arrives with no payment due. Another letter informs them that their benevolent landlord, Sir William Cotton, has died and that their two-year rent arrears are now due. Mortmain’s only response is to hide from the crisis by spending his days idling in his study, which greatly agitates the rest of the family. Unlike her father, Cassandra takes refuge in writing. She starts a diary, wittily reinterpreting the events that follow in an attempt to capture the life she wishes she could lead. When Sir William’s heirs to the estate and castle arrive from America, it is as if Rose’s prayers have been answered; she imagines that they could be her ticket out of poverty. The heirs include the indomitable Mrs. Cotton (SINEAD CUSACK) and her two sons: the academic elder brother Simon (HENRY THOMAS) and the much coarser, tougher Neil (MARC BLUCAS). For Cassandra and Rose, socializing with the Cottons is a heady taste of another world, and soon they are spending numerous nights out with them. Strong romantic feelings begin to develop. One evening while the two families are dining together at the castle, Cassandra takes Neil swimming in the castle moat in order to allow Simon the perfect opportunity to propose to Rose. Everyone is delighted at the engagement, with the glaring exception of Neil. Rose is whisked to London in preparation for her wedding. On Midsummer’s day, Simon visits the castle alone. He and Cassandra spend a magical evening together -- and during an intense dance, Simon impulsively kisses her. He means nothing by it, but she is mortified and frightened, for she now realizes she is in love with her sister’s fiancé. Confused by her emotions, Cassandra rushes to London to confront Rose, who tearfully admits she is not in love with Simon. However, she insists that she still go through with the wedding. 4 Cassandra refuses to stay with Rose and spends a lonely night waiting in a café for the first train home. Upon arrival home, she turns in friendship to Stephen (who has long been in love with her), but she is forced to admit to him that she is actually in love with Simon. Her admission seems to free Cassandra to finally speak the truth. She finally tells her father about how his creative block and emotional reserve has distanced everyone he has loved -- his wife Topaz -- now living in London -- and his children. He responds by lashing out at her, but is then filled with remorse. They soon reconcile, and Cassandra unknowingly takes on the role of her mother as she quietly sits beside Mortmain until he finally begins to write. Their solitude is broken when Simon storms into the house with the news that Rose has left him. When they receive a telegram alerting them to Rose’s whereabouts, Simon and Cassandra set off find her at the seaside hotel. But what awaits them shocks both Cassandra and Simon – they discover her with Simon’s brother Neil. Shortly thereafter, they wed. It was Stephen who brought them together; as he reveals to Cassandra on Rose and Neil’s wedding day, he saw them secretly kiss soon after their first meeting and, after his last conversation with Cassandra, decided to tell Neil everything. Blissfully married, Rose and Neil leave for America. Simon hints to Cassandra that they could have a future together but she is now honest enough to know that she shouldn’t take him up on it. She intends to love and be loved in her own right, without reservation.
TitleI Capture the Castle
Heidi Thomas (screenplay)