Here is a movie that is ideally suited for the holiday season with its celebration of family solidarity and sisterly love. In this vibrant screen interpretation of Louisa May Alcott's 1868 classic, Susan Sarandon plays Marmee, the matriarchal head of the March family residing in New England. Although her four daughters secretly desire fine dresses, pickled limes, and other material possessions, she has taught them that true wealth has to do with the inner values of self-esteem, creativity, and moral courage. The ethic of this poor family is serving others.

Winona Ryder plays Jo, the most imaginative and high-strung daughter. She creates dramas for her sisters and stays up late at night writing stories. Trini Alvarado is the domestic Meg who marries a good-hearted tutor (Eric Stoltz). Claire Danes plays Beth, a sickly sister who bravely faces death at an early age. And Kirsten Dunst is Amy, the wide-eyed youngest sister. As a young woman (Samantha Mathis), she goes off to Europe to study art and then marries the boy next door (Christian Bale).

Director Gillian Armstrong was previously at the helm of My Brilliant Career, the Australian classic about a young woman holding fast to her dream of being a writer. She percolates this drama by focusing on Jo's quest for independence as a writer in New York. Even when she is succeeding there, Jo's family back home is never far from her mind. Eventually, she finds an older man (Gabriel Byrne) who understands her and shares her desire to help others.

One of the most appealing things about this fine version of Little Women is that it so vividly captures and conveys the soulful dimensions of the March family. These sisters honor each other's idiosyncrasies and rally together in times of need. And because they have a common vision of what is good and right and true, they can handle anything the world throws at them. In Little Women, family is a soul center and an evolving energy field of love.

More films about Sisters.