Kristin Scott Thomas, known for her acting prowess, makes her directorial debut in a film with exquisite production design. Andrew McAlpine, the talented designer behind Jane Campion’s “The Piano,” creates a stunning visual backdrop for the film. Scott Thomas also takes on the role of Diana, a woman about to be married for the third time. Her daughters, played by Scarlett Johansson, Sienna Miller, and Emily Beecham, return home to celebrate the wedding. The cottage they call home is nothing short of a dream – a beautiful English country cottage with vibrant colors, botanical wallpapers, and a sprawling green yard. The inviting and lived-in look of the house adds to the charm of the film.
While the production design is a standout aspect, the screenplay, written by Scott Thomas and journalist John Micklethwaite, falls short of its potential. “North Star” feels like a lesser variation of Richard Curtis’ amiable, sleek comic-dramas, lacking the sharp-witted dialogue that Curtis is known for. However, the film still manages to capture the warm story of a family of grown-ups coming to terms with their relationships and the past.
The film introduces us to the three sisters in a series of introductory scenes. Johansson portrays Katherine, a tightly-wound captain in the British Royal Navy, while Beecham embodies the role of Georgina, a nervous and insecure nurse suspecting her husband of infidelity. Miller takes on the role of Victoria, a confident middle sister and a famous actress with a string of past lovers. Victoria shares the family’s history through a talk show appearance, revealing that their mother had been married twice – the first husband, a military pilot and the father of Katherine and Victoria, died in the Falklands War, while the second husband, another pilot and Georgina’s father, was killed in Bosnia, leaving Diana to raise their three daughters.
Scott Thomas infuses the film with an autobiographical reflection, given that her own mother experienced a similar loss and remarriage to another pilot. The dedication of the film reads “In memory of my fathers,” adding a personal touch to the storytelling.
As an actor turned director, Scott Thomas demonstrates her skill in handling her fellow actors. Johansson, Miller, and Beecham convincingly portray the bond between the sisters, each bringing a unique personality to their characters. The naturalness of their performances and the unspoken affection they share as sisters add depth to the family dynamic.
The film revolves around a bossy yet loving family. Victoria takes it upon herself to hire an investigator to follow Georgina’s husband, while Diana urges Katherine to marry her long-standing partner, Jack. However, these distinctive qualities are overshadowed by predictable scenes, such as an outdoor wedding dinner and mischievous grandsons. While the film is easy to immerse into, thanks to Scott Thomas’ assured direction, vibrant cinematography by Yves Belanger, and graceful editing by Joan Sobel, it lacks surprising elements.
Despite attempts to introduce surprises, they are not very effective. A rich man pursuing Victoria, whom she humorously refers to as “Le Grand Fromage,” disrupts the wedding by landing a helicopter on the lawn but adds little substance to the overall film. Furthermore, Jack’s need to urgently talk to Katherine does not lead to the anticipated breakup. Instead, the film takes a ridiculous plot turn to resolve the conflict.
The film reaches emotional climaxes as the sisters confront years of guilt, resentment, and hidden secrets. Scott Thomas shines in a powerful scene towards the end where Diana encourages her daughters to stop idolizing their fathers, who remain frozen in their perfect youth in their minds. The film’s themes of time, memory, and coming to terms with the past truly come to fruition in these poignant moments.
Scott Thomas’ breakthrough role in Curtis’ “Four Weddings and a Funeral” may be the reason for the film’s deft mix of drama, comedy, and warmth towards the characters. Curtis serves as a good model to follow, even if “North Star” falls short of extraordinary. Nonetheless, creating a film that engrosses viewers and makes them want to step into its world is no small feat.