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
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
Excellent production of Evans' last Victorian novel
Mary Anne Evans finished writing "Daniel Deronda" in 1876. It was the last of several novels she wrote under the pen name, George Eliot. She was 57 at the time and would live but four more years. Among more than 40 fiction writers of the period, Eliot was one of the great chroniclers of 19th century English society (Georgian-Victorian).
"Deronda" is also the last of Eliot's books to be scripted for a movie. This rendition by the BBC in three parts is excellent. For the fairly recent filming 2002, the film makers were able to capture the England of the 1870s very well. The cinematography was excellent, as were the script and direction. The acting was first-rate by the entire cast. As some others have mentioned, Hugh Bonneville excelled in his role of a shrewd, mean, heartless "villain," under the guise of a calm, but indifferent gentleman. Romola Garai and Jodhi May were perfect in their roles, and Hugh Dancy was superb in his slight reserve and humility, matching the character in the book. Edward Fox was on the mark in his supporting role, and all the rest of the cast were terrific.
My rating is down one point from a 10 only because of the slight disjointedness in the film. Others have commented on the appearance of two films together, and the difficulty of interweaving them. It wasn't a distraction, but it was noticeable as though the script should have given us smoother connections between stories. But this is a tremendous film and most enjoyable foray into Victorian England.
I have to give Eliot kudos for one more thing that no one else seemed to comment on. That was the dialog around the table during the Jewish meal. Mordecai said that the Jews would not reach an end to their low esteem until they had a land of their own in the eastern Mediterranean. What great foresight by a writer 75 years before the worldwide emigration of Jews to the Holy Land after World War II, and the establishment of modern Israel in the late 1940s.
I compliment the BBC for putting Eliot's great books on film, starting in the 1990s. Anglophiles and all of us who enjoy great movies and stories, will cherish these films for years to come. They are a great way to expose the young generation of today with some of the great literature and history of 19th century England.
The world would indeed have loved to have more of Eliot, Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope and Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), even though most lived a little to a lot longer than the average age of life expectancy at the time. In 1850, that was 40 for males and 42 for females. Trollope (1815-1882) lived to be 67; Eliot (1819-1880) lived to be 61; and Carroll (1822-1898) was 66 when he died. Dickens also beat the average age of death, living to 58 from 1812-1870. But Austen (1775-1817) and Bronte (1816-1855), lived to only 42 and 39, respectively.
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