The Cider House Rules (film)

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 Cider House Rules
Cider house rules.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLasse Hallström
Produced byRichard N. Gladstein
Screenplay byJohn Irving
Based onThe Cider House Rules
by John Irving
Music byRachel Portman
CinematographyOliver Stapleton
Edited byLisa Zeno Churgin
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
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 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 based on 112 votes 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, an orphan, grows up in a Maine orphanage directed by kindly, avuncular Dr. Wilbur Larch. Homer is returned twice by foster parents; his first foster parents thought he was too quiet and the second parents beat him. Dr. Larch is addicted to ether and also secretly performs abortions for women. Conditions at the orphanage are spartan, but the children are treated with love and respect, and they are like an extended family. Each night before they go to sleep, Dr. Larch says to the boys, "Goodnight you Princes of Maine, you Kings of New England", as both encouragement and a kind of blessing.

Homer, the oldest among 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. Homer disapproves of abortions, and, although he has been trained by Larch in the field, he refuses to perform them. After several years, Homer is very skillful and confident in performing obstetrical duties. Larch wants him to take over his position after he retires, but Homer finds this idea impossible, because he lacks formal medical education and wants to see more of the world than just the orphanage.

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

While Wally is away, Homer and Candy have an affair. He goes to work picking apples with Arthur Rose's team. Arthur and his team are migrant workers who are employed seasonally at the orchard by the Worthingtons, but are illiterate. When Homer reads them the rules of the Cider House that have been posted, the workers observe that 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 these rules. Homer and Candy become much closer during this period of harvest and spend more time together while Wally is in Burma fighting.

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

Wally returns from Burma a paraplegic, and although she loves Homer, Candy decides to go where she is most needed. Immediately following this decision, Homer learns that Dr. Larch has succumbed to (what he is told was) an accidental ether overdose. Eventually, Homer decides he too should go where he is most needed and returns to the orphanage, where he is greeted joyously by both the children and staff. Homer learns that Larch faked his diagnosis and medical record to keep him out of the war. Larch fabricated college credentials for Homer and used reverse psychology to convince the orphanage board to appoint Homer as the next director. Homer 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."[7] It also has a weighted average rating of 75 out of 100 on Metacritic, based on 32 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[8]

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."[9]

Awards and nominationsEdit

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

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ The Cider House Rules (1999), retrieved 2020-02-10
  6. ^ "The Cider House Rules - Official Site - Miramax". Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  7. ^ "The Cider House Rules (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved November 25, 2020.
  8. ^ "The Cider House Rules Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 5, 2018.
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 17, 1999). "The Cider House Rules". Ebert Digital LLC. Retrieved July 5, 2018.

Further readingEdit

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

External linksEdit