Set in Victorian London, Gwendolen Harleth is drawn to Daniel Deronda, a selfless and intelligent gentleman of unknown parentage, but her own desperate need for financial security may destroy her chance at happiness.
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Jonny Lee Miller
In the 1840s, Cranford is ruled by the ladies. They adore good gossip; and romance and change is in the air, as the unwelcome grasp of the Industrial Revolution rapidly approaches their beloved rural market-town.
It is across the roulette table that Gwendolen Harleth first locks eyes with the enigmatic Daniel Deronda. Gwendolen is beautiful, vivacious, and a gambler, but desperate for financial security; something that possessive Henleigh Grandcourt would be able to provide for her. Daniel is the adopted son of an aristocratic, but doubtful of his own identity. He pours his energy into selflessly helping his friends, including poor Jewish singer Mirah Lapidoth. As Gwendolen's situation becomes dire, and Daniel seeks to uncover the mystery surrounding his own birth, their lives become intertwined... Written by
The title gave me no clue to the absorbing romantic Victorian drama that was to follow. Said to be George Eliot's last great novel, it exposes in no uncertain manner the pitiful life of the Victorian woman, hardly more than an obedient slave and forced to respond to her husband's demands.
Hugh Bonneville stands out among the excellent cast as the nasty Henleigh Grandcourt who revels in watching women squirm under his aristocratic power and Romola Garai is perfect as Gwendolen who marries him, not for love, but to save her family from economic ruin.
Hugh Dancy in the title role of Daniel has immediate appeal with his handsome good looks touched with both shyness and sadness as he ponders over his past life and the unsolved mystery of his mother's identity.
After Daniel saves a woman from drowning in a river, the story takes an unexpected turn and concentrates on the Jewish problem of a permanent homeland. Daniel is much attracted to the woman he has saved and through his efforts to help her some mysteries of his own life are revealed to him.
The sets, costumes and photography capture exquisitely life in England in the Victorian era. Quite apart from the romantic drama, there is much to ponder over in this story. Thankfully to-day women have gained a degree of independence, though not entirely, and the Jews are still uncertain about the boundaries of their homeland.
I can recommend this film which is in 4 parts. Set aside a full evening to watch the story unfold. It's quite long (205 minutes) but a brilliant production.
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