A strong point is the casting of Elinor. While she acts with great maturity, Hattie Morahan looks as young as Elinor should. Her portrayal of the character is excellent - her facial expressions so subtle yet so clear. Just as Col. Brandon looks as if he's been shot on hearing of Marianne's presumed engagement, her Elinor manages the same thing hearing of Lucy's history with Edward. I also approve of her having her painting as an occupation - Marianne had her interests, so Elinor should have hers. Poor Elinor, though, is always picking up the pieces of Marianne's mistakes - after warning Marianne to behave more discreetly, she is left to fend off Mrs. Jennings' insinuations just before her sister gets the letter from Willoughby.
Marianne is just as good - Charity Wakefield looks the innocent seventeen Marianne should be. A touch I love is the way her hairstyle is curly where the sensible Elinor's is straighter, yet after her illness the style becomes more subdued. She captures the naive character perfectly - genuinely can't see anything wrong with her open approval of Willoughby. And she and Mrs. Dashwood not only act in similar ways but look as though they could be mother and daughter. She does act like a teenager would - I don't know if I would call it selfish - but when Willoughby causes her such heartbreak, she asks "Can we go tomorrow?" in the way a teenager believes the world revolves around her.
I'm not keen on Willoughby. I always thought the point of Willoughby was that he was supposed to bowl Marianne over and charm everybody else. He isn't handsome, rather he seems to be at that awkward phase some teenagers go through before they mature into stunning adults, and he just hasn't got there yet. At times, he comes across as smarmy and even arrogant. When he is rude to Mrs. Jennings' enquiries over where he and Marianne slipped away to unchaperoned, he isn't justified - considering how improper such an outing was. When - in another scene - Marianne leaves the room in tears, he doesn't seem remorseful but almost looks pleased. While I felt for Marianne at the ball, I was glad he was made to feel uncomfortable. The 1995 film gave rise to comments from some viewers about how they wished Marianne had ended up with Willoughby - seeing this version, I wouldn't wish him on anyone.
I am glad that the duel was put in - it is skimmed over in one line in the book so it's easy to miss - because it shows that, deep down, Brandon does have the passion and deep feelings that Marianne wants in a partner.
The minor characters are wonderfully cast - the footman has such pride in being able to give Marianne some post after all her pestering, Mr. Palmer conveys bored displeasure in one look. Lucy Steele does the innocence so well yet I hated her within a couple of scenes - so many of her words have double meanings which hurt Elinor. At the dinner party in episode three there was much tension - realising Mrs. Ferrars, Robert, Fanny, John, the Steeles and the Dashwoods were about to dine together, I knew it would be a hellish evening before the food was even served. Fanny is terrifying in some scenes - her interrogation of Anne Steele (whose accent came right off the page) was like a shark circling a boat. Her tightly styled hair is period perfect and so right for her character - no mercy. I think a mention should be made of Mrs. Jenning's scathing line about her daughter's intelligent - on pointing out Charlotte's embroidery she remarks, "Seven years at a great school and that's all we have to show of it". The good lady seems to walk out of the book when she offers food and drink as cures for a broken heart.
The look of the film is excellent, too. The shells in the opening sequence and the crashing waves give a suitably spartan feel, while the clothes and soft furnishings look correct for the Regency period (particularly the soft colours) - Miss Grey has just the Grecian look of a Regency fashion-plate. The party scene looks like it's lit by candlelight - often evening scenes in period films are unrealistically bright. There are also some beautiful landscape and scenery shots.
The only downside is that certain parts feel a little rushed - Brandon's mysterious departure from Delaford is filmed so abruptly it looks hurried, not mysterious - and the ending is over a little too quickly. I'm sure they could have stolen a minute or two of screen time from Willoughby and Marianne's unchaperoned trip to add it to the end, but other than that I found the adaptation very satisfying.