The Cider House Rules


Directed by: Lasse Hallstrom
Written by: John Irving
Starring: Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Michael Caine, Paul Rudd, Delroy Lindo
Released: January 13, 2000
Grade: A

Homer Wells (Maguire) was born and remained at St. Cloud’s orphanage his whole life.  Despite many attempts to find a suitable set of parents for Homer, destiny seemed to keep him at the orphanage under the guidance of the beloved Dr. Wilbur Larch (Caine).  As Homer passed through his teens, Dr. Larch wanted to make sure Homer was always “of some use” and so Homer became Larch’s prodigy.

There are only two reasons women go to St. Cloud’s - to give birth and leave their child behind, or to have an abortion.  Homer became proficient in the art of delivery, but despite the wishes of Larch, his moral stance withheld him from performing an abortion.

Homer became a respected member and father-figure of the St. Cloud’s orphans - he was loved and he loved them but as time went by, he wanted more - he wanted to see the world. 

Wally (Rudd) & Candy (Theron) provided that opportunity.  Wally was a fighter pilot in the army and Candy worked at an apple orchard by the sea and together they arrived at St. Cloud’s with an unwanted pregnancy.  Homer seized the opportunity to move on.  Asking for a lift from the love-struck couple, Homer went into the world, to find where he really belonged.

Following Homer’s departure from St. Cloud’s, things changed. The medical board began a movement to replace the aging Dr. Larch as head of St. Cloud’s who now knew his days were numbered.  Larch knew the only person who could replace him and his uphold his ethic would be Homer - but could he convince the board and more importantly, could he convince Homer to return?

The reinvented Caine provides one of the best performances of his career and Maguire was perfectly suited to his role as the stilted Homer.  Lasse Hallstrom’s (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?) direction creates some wonderful moments - including the opening credits (beautiful orchestrated by Rachel Portman), and the moment Homer acts on his affections towards Candy.

But the aspect to emphasise in this film is John Irving screenplay based on his own lengthy novel (first published in 1986).  If the full book was made into a film it would end up being a 10-part mini-series and so cutting it back into a 2-hour version whilst maintaining the whole essence of the novel was a task in itself.  Given the limitations, characters and subplots had to altered or removed (which will annoy some), but Irving comes through with honours.

Despite it’s subject matter, The Cider House Rules is not a debate on abortion, although it will create discussion.  It’s Homer’s story - an emotional and moving drama about the journeys we take and the paths we follow to find our true place in the world - to find that place where we can best be “of some use”.