Tuesday, January 29, 2013

JOHN CHUCKMAN REVIEW OF THE BBC ADAPTATION OF ELIZABETH GASKELL'S WIVES AND DAUGHTERS


This surely is one of the most perfect film adaptations - and, indeed, one of the most perfect films - ever made.

It is literally flawless in its casting, acting, photography, costumes, and clever directorial touches.

Elizabeth Gaskell's novel has been described as an under-appreciated masterpiece, and I think that assessment accurate. The most remarkable aspect of her characters is that in all of them we see at least two aspects, both how they might be seen as correct or elevated or admirable in their actions or as foolish or malicious or criminal, depending upon the viewer.

It is this quality which takes the story far beyond what we might expect from a romantic book of the time. There is humor and subtlety as in Jane Austen's best earlier work, but there is also genuine insight into the human condition.

And the producers of this adaptation have captured the quality to perfection, taking the film far beyond mere costume drama. There is always depth and subtlety at work here even though the story is largely light and romantic. There are few Hollywood films which could stand being compared.

There isn't an actor cast here I would change, and that is not something you can often say about films.

The locations and sets are breathtaking.

Watching the parade of gorgeous women's costumes alone is like walking through the halls of some fabulous museum.

And the director has handled this wealth of material with the most exquisite judgment.

Humor abounds.

Highly recommended, even if you are a person who normally does not like romantic drama.

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