The Inheritance (1997)


Our rating: 5 out of 5

Rated: PG

reviewed by Aareses Lawless

In 1988 two researchers at Harvard accidentally stumbled upon Louisa May Alcott's first novel. Written by Alcott at the tender age of seventeen in a red notebook, this unpublished work had long been hidden in a pile of letters. Finally, in the year 1997, almost 150 years since it was penned, The Inheritance was finally brought to the screen.


Edith Adelon (Cari Shayne) has lived for many years as the companion of a rich girl, Amy Hamilton (Brigitta Dau). Amy's father Henry (Tom Conti) first saw Edith when he traveled to Italy to bury his brother John who was killed in the same epidemic that claimed the life of Edith's parents. The young orphans mother was Johns maid and instead of having her sent to an orphanage, Henry decided to bring her back to his home in Concord, Massachusetts. Over twenty years have passed and Edith has grown to love the Hamilton's as if they were family. Mr. Hamilton is a very opinionated man who continually shocks his wife Beatrice (Meredith Baxter) with his outlandish remarks regarding the arrogance of the established gentry in Concord and especially the stupidity of requiring women to ride side-saddle instead of astride.


Unbeknownst to the rest of the family, Henry as been encouraging Edith to secretly ride and train the family's prize race horse, Selim. Amy, now a young lady, takes completely after her father when it comes to bluntness and independent thinking and as a result Mrs. Hamilton entreats Edith to help Amy spend more time outdoors instead of always immersing herself in philosophy and literature. Every year for decades the Hamilton family has participated in the famed Greens Cup ball and horse race. This year, Mr. Hamilton has requested a family friend, James Percy (Thomas Gibson) to ride in his place. Just prior to James arrival, Beatrice Hamilton invited a cousin, Ida Glenshaw (Brigid Brannagh), to stay for an extended visit in hopes that the aforesaid Ida might make a good match. Immediately after her arrival Ida began to develop a dark and many times unhidden animosity towards Edith. The situation quickly goes from bad to worse when James arrives and Ida sets her sights on winning him. James however is recovering from a broken heart and has no intention of wooing the desperate Ida.


When Edith saves Amy's life in a freak accident only a few days after the arrival of James and Ida, Mr. Hamilton decides to reward Edith by allowing her to accompany them to the Greens Cup ball. Ida is horrified at this because she considers Edith so far beneath her own social status. Meanwhile, James discovers that his heart, which he once considered broken, is now starting to fall in love with Edith. It is on the evening of the Greens Cup race that a terrible tragedy occurs and a secret is revealed which will change the course of all their lives. Originally made for television, but now available on DVD, The Inheritance is a touching tale of romance and character of the heart. Objectionable content is almost non-existent; only a few mild profanities are spoken, including one which the incorrigible Mr. Hamilton exclaims and then wonders why it is taboo when the preacher said it seventeen times in his sermon. As with most period dramas, some of the gowns are low-cut and cleavage is visible. A mans attempts to force himself upon a woman are quickly thwarted. The romance between James and Edith is both tender and pure. Good ultimately prevails and the antagonistic Ida finally gets her comeuppance.


Cari Shayne and Thomas Gibson prove that they are excellent leads and manage to captivate the attention of the viewer. The musical score for this film is gorgeous in addition to the beautiful sets and costumes. I immediately fell in love with this film and rank it as one of the best made-for-TV movies that I have ever seen. Lousia May Alcott's first novel does not contain the literary genius of Little Women, but it certainly gives a glimpse of the inspiring literature which was to come from her pen. This Emmy Award winning film is both inspiring and heart-warming. Throughout the movie character and virtues are encouraged and Edith's selflessness and longsuffering should be an example to all of us. If you are a fan of Louisa May Alcott or simply a lover of period romance, consider devoting some time to watch The Inheritance.