Well-intentioned 1940s-era tear jerker about a young orphan (Tobey Maguire, voice cracking as always) who has been trained as a doctor at the New England orphanage where he's lived all his 20 years, and what happens when he decides to finally split and explore the world – which in this case means picking apples at an orchard near the coast, where he naturally falls head over heels in love with Charlize Theron, whose family owns the orchard.
Michael Caine is quite good as the doctor who trains Maguire and considers him a son, and the movie boldly takes a nonjudgmental approach to touchy issues such as abortion (Caine performs them regularly, Maguire refuses to) and incest (trouble amongst the migrant apple pickers!) – Hallström's progressive Swedish politics no doubt flavoring John Irving's story.
But despite innumerable grab-the-Kleenex emotional moments early on, I was left somewhat unaffected by film's end. It isn't a bad film, it just didn't grab me by the throat and make me realize anything new about the world we live in. That's not a requirement for all films, of course, but when one takes itself as seriously as The Cider House Rules, you'd expect something with a bit more staying power. I didn't think about it at all on the drive home.