The Cider House Rules (film)

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The Cider House Rules
Cider house rules.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLasse Hallström
Screenplay byJohn Irving
Based onThe Cider House Rules
by John Irving
Produced byRichard N. Gladstein
CinematographyOliver Stapleton
Edited byLisa Zeno Churgin
Music byRachel Portman
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • September 7, 1999 (1999-09-07) (Venice)
  • September 12, 1999 (1999-09-12) (TIFF)
  • December 10, 1999 (1999-12-10) (Limited)
  • January 7, 2000 (2000-01-07) (Wide)
Running time
125 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$24 million[2]
Box office$88.5 million[2]

The Cider House Rules is a 1999 American drama film directed by Lasse Hallström and distributed by Buena Vista Pictures. It was written by John Irving and is based on his 1985 novel of the same name. Its story follows Homer Wells, who lives in a World War II–era Maine orphanage run by a doctor who trained him, and his journey after leaving the orphanage. The film stars Tobey Maguire, Charlize Theron, Delroy Lindo, Paul Rudd, Michael Caine, Jane Alexander, Kathy Baker, Kieran Culkin, Heavy D, Kate Nelligan, and Erykah Badu.

The film was produced by Miramax Films and FilmColony and premiered at the 56th Venice Film Festival.[3] It grossed $110,098 in its opening weekend and $88.5 million worldwide, against a budget of $24 million.[4] It was positively reviewed and has a 71% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.[5]

The film won two Academy Awards: Irving won the Academy Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published, while Michael Caine won his second Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture, along with four other nominations at the 72nd Academy Awards.[6] Irving documented his involvement in bringing the novel to the screen in his book, My Movie Business.


Homer Wells grows up in a Maine orphanage directed by avuncular Dr. Wilbur Larch. He is returned twice by foster parents, the first felt he was too quiet and the second beat him. Dr. Larch is addicted to ether and also secretly performs abortions. Conditions at the orphanage are spartan, but the children have love and respect, and are like an extended family. Each night before sleeping, Dr. Larch says to them, "Goodnight you Princes of Maine, you Kings of New England", as both encouragement and a kind of blessing.

Homer, the oldest of the orphans, is very bright, helpful and even-tempered, so Larch trains him in obstetrics and abortions as an apprentice, despite Homer's never having attended high school. He disapproves of abortions, and, although he has been trained by Larch, he refuses to perform them. After several years, Homer is very skillful and confident in performing obstetrical duties. Larch wants him to take over after he retires, but Homer feels it's impossible, as he lacks formal medical education and wants to see the world beyond the orphanage.

Homer leaves with Candy Kendall and her boyfriend, Wally Worthington, a young couple who came to the clinic for an abortion. Wally is a pilot on leave from the service. Wally's mother, Olive, owns the Worthington family apple orchard where Homer settles as a worker. He lives on the Worthington estate in Cider House, the bunkhouse. Wally returns to World War II. Homer is exempt as Dr. Larch has diagnosed him with a heart condition.

While Wally is away, Homer and Candy have an affair. He picks apples with Arthur Rose's team of migrant workers, employed seasonally at the orchard by the Worthingtons, and are illiterate. Homer reads them the posted rules of the Cider House, the workers observe the rules have been made without the occupants' consent by people who do not live there and so do not face their problems. Consequently, they feel that they can ignore them. Homer and Candy become much closer during harvest and spend more time together while Wally is in Burma fighting.

After Arthur and his team come back to work the following season, it comes to light that he has impregnated his daughter, Rose. She confides in Homer and Candy after he realizes she is pregnant. Homer decides he must help her, and agrees to perform an abortion, with Arthur's assistance. A few days later, as Rose tries to run away, her father goes to say goodbye; she stabs him and flees. He then makes the injury worse, and as a last request, asks Homer and another worker to tell the police his death was a suicide.

Wally returns from Burma a paraplegic, and although she loves Homer, Candy decides to take care of him. Immediately after, Homer learns Dr. Larch accidentally overdosed on ether. Homer decides he is most needed in the orphanage, where he is greeted joyously by both the children and staff. He learns not only did Larch fake his medical record to keep him out of the war, but also college credentials and used reverse psychology to convince the orphanage board to appoint Homer as the next director. He fills the paternal role that Larch previously held for the children of the orphanage, saying, "Goodnight you princes of Maine, you kings of New England".



On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 71% approval rating, based on 112 reviews with an average rating of 6.6/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Cider House Rules derives affecting drama from wonderful performances, lovely visuals, and an old-fashioned feel."[5] It also has a weighted average rating of 75 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[7]

Leonard Maltin awarded the film a rare four-star rating. By contrast, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded it just two stars, stating the film: "is often absorbing or enchanting in its parts. Michael Caine's performance is one of his best, and Charlize Theron is sweet and direct as the girl", along with, "The story touches many themes, lingers with some of them, moves on and arrives at nowhere in particular."[8]

Awards and nominations[edit]

The Cider House Rules won two Academy Awards and was nominated for an additional five:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (12)". British Board of Film Classification. February 4, 2000. Retrieved July 6, 2013.
  2. ^ a b The Cider House Rules at Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 6, 2013
  3. ^ Rooney, David (1999-09-07). "The Cider House Rules". Variety. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  4. ^ "The Cider House Rules". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  5. ^ a b "The Cider House Rules (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  6. ^ "The Cider House Rules - Official Site - Miramax". Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  7. ^ "The Cider House Rules Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  8. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 17, 1999). "The Cider House Rules". Retrieved July 5, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

  • Tibbetts, John C., and James M. Welsh, eds. The Encyclopedia of Novels Into Film (2nd ed. 2005) pp 56–58.

External links[edit]