“I think we must expect great things from you, Mr Potter…”

The film tie-in of the Woman in Black

And so you should, to be honest. However even though this classic quote of the title of this blog comes from wand-maker Mr Ollivander (John Hurt) in the Harry Potter films, you must have guessed by now that I am of course using it to refer to Daniel Radcliffe’s first post-Harry Potter feature, the Woman in Black.

I had to go and see the stage play of this when I was at school because we were studying it for GCSE. I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t enjoy the book either. I just didn’t get it. I found it so unbelievably boring. Mind you, I didn’t get Withnail & I – I know, I know – when I first saw it. Six months later I watched Withnail & I again and realised its undisputed genius.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I had a moment akin to that of Withnail & I when I saw the Woman in Black at the cinema on Sunday, but it certainly was a very enjoyable film with some great gasp-aloud moments in it. Based on the book by Susan Hill, for those of you not familiar with the plotline it tells the story of young solicitor Arthur Kipps who, recently bereaved from the loss of his wife during childbirth, is sent on a trip to a large remote manor, Eel Marsh House, in the north of England to go through the papers of a young woman who has also recently died. Being faced with the prospect of going through endless piles of paperwork can be scary enough, that is until the floorboards start creaking, shadows start moving when all else is inanimate and curtains begin twitching for no apparent reason. Naturally the dog can sense these things and growls to warn whenever the presence of the ghost of the Woman in Black is near.

But who is she? And what is, quite frankly, her beef? Why does she patrol the desolate manor where this is set, and how is she linked to the papers under investigation? Why is she so annoyed that she feels the need to spectrally haunt the village, terrifying the locals and making children commit suicide just by controlling their minds? This is a movie about a ghost with one hell of a chip on her transparent shoulder. She is mourning the loss of her son who drowned years ago in the merciless marshes that rise during high tide outside Eel Marsh House and in vengeance, continues to pop-up-out-of-nowhere around the village when least expected, frightening people as she stands – as much as a ghost can – eerily between trees in woods and gravestones in cemeteries. Chilling stuff. Anything in black with no feet is terrifying, you have to admit.

Turns out upon doing research that the ending of this film differs to that of the book, but not having remembered anything about the book I didn’t mind this. The thing I was most looking out for and was interested in was seeing how Daniel Radcliffe was doing following putting the world’s most famous boy-wizard to rest. The answer is very well. Even though naturally he has Harry’s face, I didn’t miss Harry once or think that this was Harry Potter I was watching; where’s the hair and glasses and lightning bolt scar? Which makes me think, people have been so quick to try and declare that Radcliffe may never do anything decent after Potter and will forever be typecast. But after seeing the Woman in Black and it sensibly coming out so soon after the Deathly Hallows, I think the Harry Potter skin will be shed imminently, if not already. I don’t think the young Radcliffe has anything to worry about; it’s the other students of Hogwarts I think you’ll be asking yourselves in the next few months where are they now. If you subscribe to the theory that Harry Potter wasn’t real acting anyway, then a) shame on you and b) go and see the Woman in Black and learn that there are many theatrical sides to Radcliffe, and we’ve just been treated to another one.

We expected great things from him. And we were not short-changed.

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