There is nothing in the nature of the usual cinematic mawkishness that so often accompanies adaptations of Dickens books to film. Nothing exaggerated, nothing glossed over. The characters are flesh and blood and their emotions are vividly characterized by a wonderful cast of performers.
Ioan Gruffudd, Justine Waddell and Charlotte Rampling are fabulous as Pip, Estella and Miss Havisham. Rampling's Havisham is terrifying in her quiet way, like the ghost of a dead princess haunting her huge Satis House. Waddell's Estella is the truly tragic figure, as in the book. She has been prevented from developing the "loving mechanism" found in most human beings. Waddell's conveyance of this dilemma is profoundly moving. Gruffudd's highly responsive Pip is also deeply felt. Their younger counterparts, played by two wonderful young actors, Gabriel Thompson and Gemma Gregory, possess uncanny resemblances to Gruffudd and Waddell. One of the best transitions in time, as far as character development, I've ever seen.
The photography is utterly beautiful, the music haunting and memorable in its stark simplicity. It is rare that I notice the editing but this film is so perfectly put together that I took clear notice of the artistry at work in that department.
For Dickens addicts this film is a must for your collection; for lovers of great cinema I would say the same thing. This version of 'Great Expectations' SHOULD have been a major film release in the theaters. Even if it had been more than the four hours it takes in the TV adaption, longer even, I think it would have had a greater following than it enjoys.
Julian Jerrold's 'Great Expectations' joins the short list of the finest productions out of Masterpiece Theatre's stables, along with 'I Claudius', 'The Jewel in the Crown' and 'Brideshead Revisited.'