Directed by: Lasse Hallström
Written by: John Irving
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd, Michael Caine
As nurturing as a home can be for someone growing up, experiences outside of one’s daily experience allows for the greatest moments of development. Seeing a different world gives the individual exposure to different people and ideologies, one could never see if forever staying stagnant. The Cider House Rules presents the experience of a person looking for their place in the world and succeeds with its sincerity.
Never successfully adopted, Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire) lives in the same orphanage where he assists his father figure, Dr. Wilbur Larch (Michael Caine) in his medical practices. With a new age of his life arriving, he decides to go out and experience more of the world, which sees him working for an apple orchard and experiencing his first relationship with a woman.
As sentimental and sincere as it gets, The Cider House Rules ticks all of the boxes of a story filled with growth and the quest of someone finding their place. Based on the well-known novel, this film presents the journey of an orphan, who has known no life outside of his orphanage, discovering the more complicated aspects of life. He assists the doctor of the orphanage with several procedures, including abortions, which he strongly disagrees with. He has accrued plenty of knowledge on these medical procedures but lacks the educational background, with him not even attending high school. The meeting with young couple Wally (Paul Rudd) and Candy (Charlize Theron) proves to him, a whole different world exists out there, which he has not seen. Now working for an apple orchard, he interacts with people differently in more than one way.
The moments of growth in this story occur to someone who has experienced a very limited scope of the world and meeting the migrant workers of the orchard demonstrates the idealism he built in the orphanage and how it differs from the rest of civilization around him. Having this story take place from the perspective of an orphan makes it crucial as well as he interacts with others who have parents and the relationships they have compared to his upbringing. As the story displays, not all people with parents prefer their circumstances as compared to the life Homer lived with the constant support of the staff. The amount of care poured into this story makes the moments where shocking events occur all the more harrowing to the point where it becomes jarring.
Looking at the cast assembled for this feature shows a good amount of heavy-hitters, with some only getting started at the turn of the century. Tobey Maguire portrays the young man we follow right before his star turn as Spider-Man. He presents the general mopiness one would expect from him, but he also has such an innocent look. It goes with the face where you know he has not experienced the harsher aspects of life, which makes the decision to cast him in the role of Homer successful. In addition, we have Michael Caine, Charlize Theron, Paul Rudd, Delroy Lindo, and several others. Their characters hold an important part in the story and each plays a hand in the development of Homer as he grows up right before us.
The filmmaking style of this feature feels incredibly old-fashioned with its plotting and how the story progresses. It does not go for any grand set of reveals or anything too challenging. It’s very straightforward in that regard, which may not be enjoyable for some but it feels like a dependable apple pie you can make on a gloomy day that brings you comfort.
Ultimately, The Cider House Rules does not try to challenge or offend. It tells its story of growth efficiently and proficiently while using its cast well. Each actor brought something engaging to the story and they help guide us through a narrative that has some low points but overall accomplishes what it seeks to achieve. This film calls into questions what people must do to fully learn how to live. Can one do it by being stationary or do they need to get out and fully experience something outside of their comfort zone? Homer learns plenty from his experience just as any of us do when we step outside of the bubble.