Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Movie Matinee #3: Felicity, an American Girl 1775

This review contains spoilers

It is spring 1775 in the British colony of Williamsburg, Virginia and it is also Felicity Merriman's 10th birthday.  Not your average girl of the time, Felicity loves horses and would rather ride her horse through the fields and pastures of Williamsburg than help out at home.

But her mother is determined that Felicity learn how to be a proper gentlewoman and signs her up for classes that will give her the skills she will need.  There, she meet Elizabeth Cole and her snooty older sister Annabelle.  Felicity and Elizabeth become immediate friends, though Annabell looks down on the Merrimans because Felicity's father is a merchant, not a gentleman.

Of course, gentlewoman lessons involve learning how to make and serve tea properly, but tea has already become a point of conflict between the loyalists, those who are loyal to the crown, and the patriots, who want independence from Britain because of the high tax on tea without any representation in Parliament.  The Merrimans, including their 15 year old apprentice Ben, are patriots while the Coles and Felicity's grandfather are loyalists.

Felicity has also fallen in love with a spirited mare she names Penny.  Penny is being abused by her owner, Jiggy Nye, who is trying to tame her.  Felicity is convinced she can tame Penny and begins to sneak out at night to try.  And she eventually succeeds.  But when she hears Jiggy Nye yell in a fit of anger that anyone who came ride his horse, is welcome to her, Felicity takes him at his word.  Accused of horse theft, Felicity must later return Penny to Jiggy Nye.  That night, Felicity again sneaks out and frees Penny.

Meanwhile, apprentice Bee has gone missing.  But summer has come and the Merrimans are off to visit grandfather, who surprises Felicity when he gives her Penny.  One day, Felicity overhears bounty hunters looking for Ben, who they say ran away to join General Washington's troops.  She takes Penny and find the injured Ben, convincing him to come to her grandfather's and to ask for her father's forgiveness.

Returning to Williamsburg, Felicity learns that the father of her friend Elizabeth has been imprisoned for being a loyalist.  Felicity's father sees no reason for his arrest and promises to try to get him out of prison.  While visiting him, Felicity also sees Jiggy Nye in the same cell.  Feeling pity for him, she brings him a blanket and some food.

Over the course of not quit a year, Felicity grows from a self-centered, impulsive girl who wants nothing more than to be independent to a thoughtful girl who cares about others, but there is still much in store for her.  Both her mother and Penny have pregnancies that result in life-threatening births.  Felicity manages to take care of the house and family maturely, efficiently and responsibly while her mother's life hangs in the balance.  And when Penny's foal is a breech birth, Felicity has the wisdom to turn to the one person who can help her - Jiggy Nye.

There are lots of historical elements in Felicity besides being an engaging coming of age story.  The two sides, patriot and loyalist, are explained clearly in the context of the story so that young viewers will have no trouble understanding the events that led to the American Revolution.  And in keeping with the themes of freedom, independence, and responsibility, the practice of apprenticeship is also clearly presented.  Apprenticeship was a legal contract to learn how to do something, and when Ben ran away, regardless of his ideological reasons, he broke the law by reneging on this contract.  The grandfather's reaction when Ben returns, that he should be imprisoned, give a good idea of how serious an apprenticeship was.

Felicity is an excellent movie, that may appeal to boys as well as girls.  It certainly was a hit over and over in my house whenever my niece L'naya visited.  We spent a lot of time drinking tea and talking about loyalists and patriots.  And in case Felicity looks familiar to you, it is because she is played by a 13 year old Shailene Woodley, whose acting career has really taken off in the last few years.

Shailene Woodley

This movie is recommended for viewers age 7+
This movie was purchased for L'naya by me.

Although the American Girl Felicity doll was retired a few years ago, you can still access lots of fun stuff and information about Felicity's world and the movie at the following web addresses:

This is part of my 2013 American Revolution Reading Challenge hosted by War Through the Generations

Happy Independence Day!


  1. Hope you had a wonderful 4th of July! I have not seen this movie- but it sounds great. I like the themes you mentioned and I love that it sparked such great conversations between you and your niece. I may have to sip some tea and watch it soon!

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