Father Andrew Greeley has written: "Our own experiences of grace give an inchoate meaning to the stories of our lives. They hint at purposes which exist beyond ourselves." In Great Expectations Ethan Hawke plays Finn Bell, an artist whose life is shaped by several extraordinary experiences.
As a boy (Jeremy James Kissner) living with his poor sister (Kim Dickens) and her boyfriend (Chris Cooper), Finn secretly saves the life of an escaped convict (Robert De Niro). The fear from that encounter never leaves him. When he is ten, Finn is invited to play with Estella (Raquel Beaudene), the niece of Mrs. Dinsmoor (Anne Bancroft), a rich eccentric living in a crumbling mansion. The old lady, who was left standing at the altar years ago, has turned Estella into a male-hating narcissist. As adolescents, the two young people have several romantic flirtations, but then she leaves to study abroad. Years later, a mysterious benefactor gives the now grown young man money to pursue his dream of being an artist in New York. His path again crosses with Estella's (Gwyneth Paltrow) in a rollercoaster ride of setbacks and surprises.
Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron (The Little Princess) has made a stylish and fluid screen adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic. The drama has a surface charm and panache that draws out the romantic inside all of us. This contemporary version of Great Expectations speaks of the unexpected gifts of grace that give meaning to our lives again and again.