Living under the shadow of the Papa New Guinean civil war, a young girl (her name is Matilda) forms a unique bond with an eccentric schoolteacher, over their shared love for Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.

Directed by Andrew Adamson (Shrek, The Chronicles of Narnia), and titled Mr Pip, the film is based on the award-winning novel by New Zealand author Lloyd Jones. It’s named after the chief character in Dickens’ novel.

Mister Pip is the story of a girl caught in the throes of war on the island of Bougainville. It is through the guidance of her devoted but strict Christian mother and teacher that Matilda survives but more importantly, through her connection with Pip, a fictional creation from the mind of Charles Dickens in Great Expectations. Pip helps Matilda maintain a desire to live, especially after her mother, the wise Mr. Watts, and her island cease to exist.

Matilda is played by in the film by Xzannjah; and Hugh Laurie (Dr Gregory House, the protagonist of TV series House) plays Mr Watts – the only white man left on the island after most left. He’s said to have a mysterious history that many of the islanders are curious about. He teaches the children of the island, each day reading a chapter of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.

I’d probably be more interested in this if the seemingly ubiquitous *white man* wasn’t present in, or central to the narrative. But c’est la vie… this is the film that was made.

TIFF (where it premiered last fall) called it “a lusciously beautiful adaptation” of Lloyd Jones’ novel.

It opens in New Zealand in October; no word on whether it’ll travel, or how far.

Check out the first trailer below: