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17 out of 21 people found the following review useful:

Fantastic adaptation of classic Hardy

Author: drew_graham1 from Provo, UT
24 March 2003

I saw this first when my older sister watched it for a class in high school and I was immediately taken by Catherine Zeta-Jones. She looked stunning, nearly perfect in every particular, almost like a flawless Disney heroine. Later, when I read the book (which soon became my favorite classic novel of all time), and did a research paper on Hardy heroines (Eustacia Vye from The Return of the Native, Bathsheba Everdene from Far from the Madding Crowd and Tess Durbefield from Tess of the D'Urbervilles), I read the description of Eustacia and found that Zeta-Jones was TYPECAST as the seemingly angelic, but ultimately tortmented woman. I quickly became a Catherine Zeta-Jones fan and sought out her other films. This one ranks as one of her best.

A fantastic work, especially for Hallmark, I agree that had it been made in Hollywood, Catherine would have won her first Oscar long before Chicago. Watch this heartbreaking film and then (or before), read the book. Also outstanding are Clive Owen as the equally tormented Damon Wildeve and Ray Stevenson as Clym Yeobright and the title character. Diggory Venn and Thomasin Yeobright are also well-played.

10/10.

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Beautifully done!

10/10
Author: BROOKE from Florida
27 April 1999

This movie is very well done! The acting is exceptional! It is a wonderful adaptation of the novel. I was enthralled from the beginning. The gorgeous landscapes, & beautiful period costumes help to make this movie a must see! I highly recommend it!

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14 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Heart Breaking

10/10
Author: Yaron Klodovski (yaron@pos.co.il)
4 October 1999

Now here is an example of how a movie can be worth to a novel it's based on. And if you didn't read the book first (like I didn't), it can break your heart. Because it's a TV movie it never received the full recognition it deserves. I think that had it been done in Hollywood, with all the whistles and bells, it would have been a hit, and Catherine Zeta Jones would have had her 1st academy award.

I've got to admit I am a Catherine Zeta Jones fan, but at the time I saw this movie on TV I never heard her name. She got here a chance to show her acting skills, and she took it with both hands. Eustacia Vye is so hypnotising and full of passion and dreams, and has such bad lack, it breaks your heart.

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8 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

A Superb Rendition of a Classic Hardy

Author: (ctkoppel@starpower.net) from Washington, DC
14 December 2000

When I was in high school, one book that was required reading in English literature was Thomas Hardy's The Return of the Native. I found the book enthralling and the main character of Eustacia Vye bewitching and unforgettable, a person who simply could not find happiness in life no matter how hard she connived to achieve it. I always wondered why a film had not been made of the book, then Hallmark Hall of Fame finally gave it the first-class treatment, with excellent production values, sumptuous costumes and photography, an intelligent script, fine musical score, and brilliant actors. Catherine Zeta Jones (at the time not the big star she is today) is a magnificent Eustacia, willfull, emotional, sad, depressed, flirtatious, deluded, manipulative, and tragic. She was the exact Eustacia I pictured in the novel. Hardy's theme of nature's indifference to humanity's suffering is indeed bleak, but can provide a stunning and moving experience. One leaves with admiration for Eustacia's tenacity in seeking that elusive thing we all seek, a world in which we feel we truly belong and can lead meaningful and fulfilled lives. Her feeling of being an outsider in Egdon Heath is a feeling which is universal. If you enjoyed the book, I predict you will be well pleased with this film. (Also, Joan Plowright stands at as Mrs. Yeobright.)

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6 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Not bad...but the last 20 minutes REALLY spoilt it

8/10
Author: r_bex4eva from Sheffield, England
20 May 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I gave it an 8 out of 10 primarily for the fact that it had a lot to live up to and on the whole did it well.

**WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD**

So here are the good bits: The cast were superb. I couldn't have cast anyone better myself than Catherine Zeta Jones for Eustacia Vye, she fitted the role perfectly. Damon Wildeve and Clym Yeobright I also felt were very successful at living up to Hardy's original characters, and the rest of the cast were equally good. Most of the first hour was good, though a lot of the lines were completely created and not taken from the original text, it did stick to the original book quite sufficiently. It included the mummer's play which I felt certain they'd leave out, and the gypsying event that Eustacia attends was done very well. Also, Clym and Eustascia's courting was done nicely.

Now for the negatives: Up until Mrs Yeobright's death I quite liked it. Even though Wildeve's and Thomasin's wedding was completely messed up (Clym shouldn't have been there, Eustacia should have given Thomasin away - which I would have like to have seen, Susan Nunsuch shouldn't have stabbed Eustacia then etc) and Clym and Eustacia's meeting wasn't true to Hardy (there was no bucket incident I'm afraid)it was still overall good. Then Mrs Yeobright died - OF A HEART ATTACK!!!! When did Mrs Yeobright die of a heart attack???? I felt that it was an important detail that she died from exhaustion and was stung by an adder - as by using the adder fat to rub on the wound, Clym - the modern man - was shown reverting back to old, superstitions and remedies. But no...it was from a heart attack. And It wasn't just little Johnny who was there to witness it...it was the whole of the heath! This definitely lost dramatic impact as the climatic line when Johnny burst into the abandoned mud hut "she told me to tell you I'd seen the face of a broken hearted woman cast off by her son" was really underplayed. And then after this it all went down hill. Clym didn't rave and whine, and wasn't seen as pathetic. We didn't grow distant from him as we do in the book, and our sympathies weren't entirely with Eustacia as they should have been. Eustacia and Clym's relationship didn't show a dramatic decline, and so when Eustacia left, it seemed a bit melodramatic as they weren't really arguing at all. Thomasin never gave birth to little Eustacia, a poignant irony disappointingly left out (and whilst I remember there was no such issue with money - no guineas, no inheritance for Wildeve -not even any gambling and glow worms.) And the ending just took the biscuit. In the book I cried when Eustacia and Wildeve died, no I didn't, I literally sobbed! When watching this I was nearly reduced to laughing it was just so bad! The whole stormy heath scene was terrible! Eustacia had no soliloquy ("I have been blighted and injured and crushed by things beyond my control!…) so it wasn't such a loss when she died and Wildeve's lyrical line "O! My darling!" was excluded so his tragic hero image was completely absent. There was no build up, no climax, nothing. I felt really disappointed by this point. And just when I thought the ending couldn't possibly get any worse, along comes Eustacias ghost! Cue me dieing myself! Unfortunately very cheaply done, it possessed no sentimental value and on the whole was just quite hilarious - a future note for director Jack Gold, don't use that one again.

Thankfully though it missed most of book six - After courses out…which to be perfectly honest is a dreadful read!

So it sounds like I hated it…just to make clear I didn't hate the whole of it just the ending. Perhaps in future I'll stop it before Mrs Yeobright dies.

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12 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Catherine Zeta-Jones is much more than a pretty face

Author: Brya English from Rock Island, WA
4 August 1999

Being both a fan of Catherine Zeta-Jones and of Thomas Hardy's tempest-tossed heroines, I had an uncontrollable urge to rent this film when I discovered it languishing on a dust covered shelf in my local video store. Happily, I was not disappointed. "Return of the Native" is the story of Eusticia Vance, a rather ambitious girl who comes back to her village in the south of England after years abroad to (rather innocently) wreak havoc on the local men. Although not one of Hardy's best stories, it gives Zeta-Jones a chance to show that she can act (and surprisingly well) if given a good role.

This role is very reminiscent of the high-spirited, ultimately doomed women Ava Gardner used to play. Copies of this video should be passed out to every casting agent in Hollywood. It could prevent atrocities like "The Haunting" in the future. So if you like gorgeously filmed, well-acted period pieces, or if you are simply a Catherine Zeta-Jones completist, I recommend "Return of the Native".

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5 out of 7 people found the following review useful:

Superb!!

Author: Michael (zetafan9_25) from Atlanta, Georgia
10 February 2001

This romance drama was marvelous. Considering it was on tv I thought it was wonderfully done. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the gorgeous Eustacia Vye, who is in search of romance. She plays the part very well and looks gorgeous as usual. Highly recommend.

Superb!!!

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Wuthering Heights In Wessex

8/10
Author: Noirdame79 (Roseofsharon979@live.com) from Canada
7 February 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I caught the first half hour of this when it originally aired on CBS in 1994, but as I was a teenager I did not know of Thomas Hardy's work, nor did I recognize Catherine Zeta-Jones or Clive Owen as they were both unknown in North America at the time. I have since taken a liking to watching period films and reading the classic novels upon which they are based. I have read the novel of The Return of the Native several times; it is one of my favorite Hardy novels, but I couldn't help but notice some similarities to Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, similarities that are evident in the film as well. Wind-swept moors, a headstrong, misguided heroine who marries a kind-hearted but dull gentleman for opportunity and possibility of society acceptance yet she maintains her strong connection to the brooding, roguish man who is tormented by the spell she casts. Spell, of course, used as a figure of speech, although raven-haired Eustacia Vye (Zeta-Jones) is suspected to be a witch and shunned by the locals of Egdon Heath, since her effect on men seems to have some kind of bewitching quality in their eyes. Even though Damon Wildeve (Owen) is pledged to marry the fair Thomasin Yeobright (Claire Skinner), he cannot seem to shake his feelings for Eustacia, who keeps drawing him to her with her bonfires and her indecision to leave England with him. As much as she wants to escape from Egdon, she feels that somehow Wildeve is beneath her, so when Thomasin's cousin Clym (Ray Stevenson) returns from Paris, she immediately sets her sights on him and leaves Damon in the dust. He, in turn, marries Thomasin almost out of spite, hoping to hurt Eustacia, but she only pushes forward with her plan to win Clym's heart, wed him and hoping that he will take her away from the heath she despises so much. However, with Hardy, things rarely the work out the way his characters hope - Clym wants to stay in Wessex, to open a school and live simply, which only brings his wife to despair and boredom. She begins to wonder if she made a mistake, and re-encountering her former lover only cements her confusion. She is somewhat torn, and this ultimately brings on her downfall as well as Damon's. Other notable portrayals are Steven MackIntosh as reddleman Diggory Venn, who unselfishly loves Thomasin and will do anything to see her happy; his character is both honorable and down-to-earth yet possesses a kind of unworldly knowledge about what he sees around him. And the ever reliable Joan Plowright as Clym's mother turns in yet another wonderful performance. Of course, there are liberties taken (cause of death of Mrs. Yeobright is altered, omission of Damon and Thomasin's child, inclusion of more of the novel's text would have been good at the climax), but overall, for the running time, Hallmark did a commendable job with this presentation. The characters of Eustacia, Wildeve, Diggory and even Thomasin have always held more interest for me than Clym, who in my opinion was never a very compelling character to begin with, sort of like Edgar Linton. Stevenson, also a virtual unknown at the time, does well with his pretty much thankless role - I never really understood what Eustacia saw in him other than her plans for escape and maybe his idealism, but Damon was a far better match for her. With Clym, she sees what she wants to see, whereas with Damon the reality is something that she doesn't know if she wants to see (there has to be some symbolism of Clym losing his sight). Of course, Eustacia and Damon are the most tragic, and are doomed, not only because they are both outsiders and their relationship to each other (which would be considered scandalous in Victorian England), but their desire to escape is only achieved in death. One of the complaints I have about this production is how there was none of the novel's dialogue when Eustacia takes her fatal plunge and Wildeve's ill-fated attempt to rescue her were included.

Filmed in Exmoor National Park (rather than in Dorset), the location does make the setting seem more rugged and wild, the music is very emotional and romantic, the cinematography very lush and pretty, Zeta-Jones is costumed more colorfully than the other women, no doubt to make to make her more distinctive (but her beauty does that alone). Very good supporting cast also. And I have to say, I cannot picture anyone else but Catherine and Clive in the roles, even when I read the novel. It's worth seeing for them and the landscape alone!

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Oo-arr, oo-arrrr......

3/10
Author: s-j-james from back end of beyond
20 August 2008

Remember the wooden, undramatic literary adaptations of the 1970s at their worst? You will when you see this broadly acted, unintentionally hilarious piece of chocolate-box adaptation. Most culpable of all is Catherine Z-J who, while undeniably easy on the eye, substitutes swishing a big dress and looking sultry for actually turning in a performance. Played po-faced like a melodrama, or Cold Comfort Farm without the jokes, this effort is not helped by a scriptwriter with a tin ear for dialogue who misses entirely the novel's sense of irony or tragedy. A shame, given the quality of the acting talent on offer - Joan Plowright, Claire Skinner, Steven Macintosh all deserve better than this.

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1 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Memorable

9/10
Author: potato2
16 October 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The story opens in southwestern England, in the year 1842. Clym Yeobright, a successful businessman, has just returned to his beloved heath after some years in Paris. He meets beautiful Eustacia Vye, the local vixen and tease, believed by many to be a witch, so powerful is her hold over men. Eustacia dreams of escaping the dull moor and sees in Clym a way to finally make it to the bright lights of Paris. Clym, however, wants to live out his days as a humble schoolmaster on the heath with his beloved Eustacia.

It's no wonder Thomas Hardy's novel is a classic and this TV-movie does it justice. The acting is uniformly excellent, the location is, in turns, bleak and wonderful, the sorrowful mood is enhanced by a plaintiff folk score, and the literate script stays close to the book. The hypnotically beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones captures Eustacia's willfulness and pride and is perfect in the role. Clive Owen plays Damon Wildeve, a local man who lusts after the elusive Eustacia. He's very good, as is Ray Stevenson, the 'native' blinded by Eustacia's charms. Together, they form a powerful and tragic love triangle. Recommended.

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