Dreamchild (1985)

Dreamchild (1985), directed by Gavin Millar.

In 1932, Alice Hargreaves at age 80 travels to New York City to receive an honorary degree on the centenary of the birth of Reverend Charles Dodgson, who she knew in England as a little girl. He wrote as Lewis Carroll and she inspired the Alice of his Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

A widow accompanied by a timid teen orphan as companion, she is shocked and confused by the modern media hysteria over the event. She claims to barely remember the original incidents and it is disorienting to have your childhood blown out into a mythology for public consumption.

She begins to remember more and sometimes hallucinates that she is in the books, meeting the strange creatures there. She wonders about her relationship with Carroll: what was he thinking, and how did she respond? In the end she gets through the public ordeal and her memories are of love and forgiveness.

Coral Browne is wonderful as the older Alice, sometimes tyrannically Victorian, softening by the end. She was Vincent Price's last wife; they met while making Theater of Blood (1973).

Ian Holm is Carroll, so good at that mute yearning he does, suggesting through passivity. He is introverted, mysterious, stuttering and in love with Alice.

Young Alice is played by Amelia Shankley, who has a brief filmography. She delivers a remarkable performance, not a "Lolita" but insightful and understanding that the Reverend has to be warned off.

Jane Asher (Deep End (1970), The Buttercup Chain (1970)) plays her mother, growing suspicious. She burned some of his letters.

The fantasy puppets are from Jim Henson's Creature Shop, based on original illustrations but looking horrific, something like The Dark Crystal (1982). Gates McFadden of Star Trek: The Next Generation did the puppet choreography.

Written by Dennis Potter (Pennies from Heaven (1978), The Singing Detective (1986), Brimstone and Treacle (1976)). He did an earlier version of this story broadcast as Alice (1965), an episode of the UK series "The Wednesday Play". It is available on the same DVD as Jonathan Miller's Alice in Wonderland (1966).

Lewis Carroll's sexuality is a matter of ongoing debate; see the wikipedia article for more. He adored little girls and did nude photo studies of them (with their parents present!) His biographers are reluctant to call him a pedophile, but that sort of behavior will get you talked about.

I have small patience with his literary nonsense genre.

Available as a PAL DVD import. No subtitles. [Later: I see a North American DVD is available from MGM].