An adaptation of Flora Thompson's autobiographical novel "Lark Rise To Candleford", set in 19 century Oxfordshire, in which a young girl moves to the local market town to begin an apprenticeship as a postmistress.
I don't want to go into too much detail or else it will be thoroughly spoiled. I anticipated this adaptation for months, being a great Dickens fan, especially after the BBC's magnificent adaptation of Bleak House.
Similar problems always arise in these adaptations, both suffered from an absence of some key characters (although the latter had more episodes, and didn't suffer as a result) so here as a result the character development is not as it should have been.
I was impressed however by how much of the plot they fit into just 3 episodes over Christmas, and the pace was terrific. There were flaws in the script, where Bleak House took plenty of quotes from the novel, this didn't and therefore doesn't feel as fleshy or ultimately, Dickensian. Why change the best form?
I commend the cinematographers. One really felt the setting as it was written. Now onto the major successes and faults; casting.
Douglas Booth as the protagonist tried but came off as a bit too wooden. He also looked far too attractive (which of course is not an insult) but it didn't really work.
It is nice to see Claire Rushbrook again. Not seen her since Secrets & Lies. She was very convincing as Mrs Joe. Shaun Dooley was excellent as Joe Gargery, as were Harry Lloyd as Herbert Pocket, Jack Roth as Orlick, David Suchet as Jaggers and Ray Winstone definitely brought great life and humanity to the dreaded Magwitch.
My hat though must go off to Gillian Anderson, although many have thought her wrong for the part, let me explain why she was so good and right for the role.
Although Miss Havisham has been typically played as elderly, and her age is never specified really in the book, she was almost married as a teenager, and the time passing would place her in her forties, to early fifties. This makes Anderson, if anything, TOO YOUNG for the role, and the original "best" Martita Hunt, was only some years older. Of course she has been aged by her style of existence. Anderson did look more worn and ethereal as the series progressed. People also seemed to have a problem with her voice.
I see the childish voice as her being trapped in her 18 year old self, which presumably is the age she was jilted, so like the rest of the house, time stopped at that point, which is why she had a similar childish outburst when her relatives visited. I think Anderson's performance therefore is rather genius. One can really feel the angst, anger, regret she feels. I would have preferred a more dramatic apology to Pip in the end, but I suppose it was more subtle. Anderson again impresses in a Dickensian role, showing something completely different to her outstanding portrayal of Lady Dedlock.
It is her impressive work which for me gives this a 7 over 6. Oh and the intro sequence was quite beautiful. Slightly disappointing but overall an engaging adaptation, with a brave effort by Anderson which should really be recognised by BAFTA.
Dooley, Roth, Winstone and Lloyd should all create some buzz too.
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