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Critic's Pick

'Fairy Tale: A True Story'

October 11, 1998|Kevin Thomas

It's 1917, and 10-year-old Frances Griffiths (Elizabeth Earl) has just arrived from Africa to live with her aunt, uncle and her 12-year-old cousin Elsie (Florence Hoath, pictured). The family lives in a handsome, spacious manor house in West Yorkshire. Nearby there is the most beautiful brook you could ever see. Elsie soon shares with Frances her great, incredible secret: that there really are fairies inhabiting that babbling brook. Sure enough, the fairies soon make themselves visible to the overjoyed Frances as tiny humans dressed in elegant medieval attire and fitted with hummingbird-like wings. But, as this is the 20th century, the girls do something very modern: Using the uncle's new Midg camera, they take pictures of the fairies--and, as word gets out, they find themselves at the center of what today has become an all-too-familiar media circus. As the debate rages over whether the pictures are real or fake, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Peter O'Toole) and Harry Houdini (Harvey Keitel) weigh in. At heart this is a story of a need for faith and hope in a terrible time--Britain had suffered horrendous war losses by 1917 (HBO, Sunday at 9:45 a.m.).

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