Reviewed by: John Butler
“Mansfield Park” (1999)
“Pride and Prejudice” (2000)
“Pride and Prejudice” (2005)
“Bride and Prejudice” (2005)
“Becoming Jane” (2007)
“Bridget Jones’s Diary” (2001)
What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer
Starring: Amanda Root, Ciarán Hinds, Sophie Thompson, Corin Redgrave, Fiona Shaw, Samuel West | Director: Roger Michell | Producers: BBC Films, Millésime Productions, WGBH, France 2 (FR2), Fiona Finlay, Rebecca Eaton, George Faber, Margot Hayhoe | Screenwriter: Nick Dear, based on a novel by Jane Austen | Released By: Sony Pictures Classics (U.S.)
From the recent Jane Austen revival, this underrated adaptation may be its best product.
Anne Eliot is an atypical Austen heroine, more like an older Fanny Price (“Mansfield Park”), and maybe Austen herself. The middle daughter of a proud baronet, Anne was persuaded to refuse an offer of marriage from Frederick Wentworth, a sailor, eight years before we join her story. Had she the benefit of hindsight, she probably would have accepted, but her mentor, Lady Russell, prevailed. As it is, Anne is the ignored, half-consciously snubbed daughter in a proud family. Now a rich captain, the jilted Wentworth has returned to her small corner of the world looking for a wife, fixing on the young and pretty in-laws of Anne’s sister.
Through the events that follow, Anne gets plenty of food for thought in seeing some directions that her life could have gone. She meets a sailor who had put off his marriage for lack of money, only for his beloved to meet an untimely death. He now spends his time drunk with despair, wallowing in Lord Byron’s poetry. Frederick’s sister, the wife of an admiral, has sailed the high seas with her husband, never feeling ill or endangered. Anne’s own life has seen the harsh realities of a life which seldom offers second chances. Nevertheless, she has it in her to rebuff an “advantageous” match, knowing full well the cost.
As suggested by the title, persuasion is the chief enemy, constancy the chief virtue. The considerations which threaten constancy—money, rank, and immoderate affection—are shown to be shallow values. God does not show favoritism, nor should we (James 2:1). Jane Austen had an acute sense for true and false virtue and is in peak form here.
There are a few d**n’s and a mildly shocking accident.