on September 1, 1999
For my money, this is absolutely the best Jane Austen adaptation ever done. Unlike some other recent adaptations ("Emma") where the aim seems to be to show beautiful people in lovely costumes surrounded by lovely things, this movie actually wants to portray real people with real emotions, whose clothes get dirty and hair gets windblown when they go for long walks.
I loved that the director didn't cast "Hollywood" types. Amanda Root is perfect as Anne Elliot -- at the beginning faded, tired and resigned to her fate as a spinster aunt who is everyone's confidante, but who cannot confess her own feelings to anyone. There is such a wealth of expressions in her eyes and her subtle gestures. And Ciaran Hinds makes a dashing and handsome Captain Wentworth -- no wonder all the ladies are in love with him! The minor characters too are priceless -- especially Sophie Thompson as Anne's hypochondriac sister, Mary, and Corin Redgrave as the monstrously snobbish Sir Walter Elliott, who has some of the funniest lines in the movie.
Highly recommended to all true Jane Austen fans!
Jane Austen wrote PERSUASION towards the end of her life, while in her final illness. Thus an atmosphere of bending weariness and quiet resignation pervades this tender romance, infused within provincial life in Regency England, swaying against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. I could not help but love this BBC film version unconditionally, so deftly are the gentle qualities of the novel brought forth.
As with her earlier novel, MANSFIELD PARK, Austen filled this story with subdued satire - intertwining a comedy of genteel manners with the unassailable decrees of the human heart. This is the story of Anne Elliot (Amanda Root): a single woman in her late 20's who, eight years previous, on the counsel of her patroness and late mother's friend, Lady Russell (Susan Fleetwood-who sadly died of cancer shortly after this film was made), had refused an offer of marriage from her true love, Captain Frederick Wentworth (Ciaran Hinds) on the grounds of his poor financial prospects.
Captain Wentworth returns to Anne's rather confined realm of society when his sister, Mrs. Croft, and her husband, an Admiral in the Navy (John Woodvine, of 1992's WUTHERING HEIGHTS) lease Anne's baronet father's estate, Kellynch Hall. Before she can join her father and elder sister Elizabeth (Phoebe Nicholls) in Bath, she must first spend a few weeks with her hypochondriac younger sister Mary, whose husband Charles' family, the Musgroves - parents Mr. and Mrs. Musgrove, and two younger sisters, Henrietta and Louisa - reside nearby. It is here that Anne becomes re-acquainted with her long-lost love, who's by now an advantageous match for any young woman, having made his prize fortune during the war. Wentworth initially fancies himself "a lost man" to the first attractive young lady who bestows upon him her "compliments to the Navy." To all appearances, Louisa Musgrove is that very lady...
Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds, even though they lack the physical beauty distinctive in other Austen adaptations, express the gamut of suppressed emotions most flawlessly here. Ms. Root conjures all the feelings of empathy and affection with every delicate expression she makes. Mr. Hinds, whom I've seen in a number of other roles -including that of an overwrought Mr. Rochester in a 1997 adaptation of JANE EYRE - gives here what's quite likely the best performance of his career. His Wentworth's subtle yet barely suppressed anger hits Anne like a bombshell. The emotion is slow paced and very flowing - but it's nonetheless quite palpable.
The entire cast, in fact, gives every cause for high praise -- most notably Corin Redgrave (brother of Lynn and Vanessa) as Anne's vain and spendthrift father, Sir Walter Elliot, Sophie Thompson (sister of Emma Thompson) as Anne's self-centered younger sister Mary Musgrove, and Fiona Shaw (Mrs. Reed in 1996's JANE EYRE) as the indomitable Mrs. Croft - each are absolutely perfect in their respective roles.
Many a time, upon a weekend afternoon, I've placed this tape into my VCR and played it while occupied with various household chores. As ever and as always, this film offers up its many beauties, and they never fail to enchant me: the long walks through the pristine and stately New Forest - the excursions with the Navel men striding proudly along jetties of the shores at Lyme - the atmospheric turns about the drizzly sidewalks, the pump rooms, and the concert halls of Bath. Such are the scenes that eternally soothe a spirit ~
on July 14, 2004
This movie is not only the best film adaptation of a Jane Austen novel, it's also a wonderful film in its own right. What did I love about it?
1) It isn't stuffy and unnatural. The characters sound human when they speak; you can imagine that this is how people spoke in the 19th century - not like pompous orators, but like real people. The world surrounding the characters isn't overly polished or brightly lit; again, there's a natural, "lived-in" feeling to all the buildings and landscapes; they do not look like they came out of a glossy postcard.
2) The performances. I don't have enough praise for Amanda Root, who plays Anne Elliot, a woman whose marriage prospects are slim to nil, and who has just been thrown into the company of a man whom she rejected years ago. Root can speak volumes just with her eyes, and everything about her fits perfectly with the gentle, wry and intelligent Anne Elliot. As Captain Wentworth, Ciaran Hinds is also great; he disappears into the character. Both actors aren't conventionally beautiful or handsome either; Root in particular blossoms before the viewers eyes - at first she's very faded and quiet, and then we (like Wentworth) see her spirit shine out. In addition to Amanda Root and Ciaran Hinds, the rest of the cast also do a wonderful job. Perhaps because there aren't any big name actors, we can get totally immersed in the film.
3) It's true to Austen. There's subtle humor, real human feeling, and a keen understanding of human nature. It's an unforgettable love story.
4) The kiss. One kiss - perfectly timed, perfectly executed... you will melt.
5) The soundtrack. This holds true particularly for the assembly at Bath, and the Italian vocal pieces.
on January 2, 1999
As a lifelong fan of the works of Austen I am always leary of film adaptations, for fear they are glorified costume pieces. This film was so remarkably well done, the characterizations complete and fleshed out, it was as "clinging" as the book. It truly stays with you. Cirian Hinds and Amanda Root are wonderful of course, but the rest of the cast is just as ideal. I would recommend it to all but the most cynical non romantics.
on January 8, 2004
My copy of the novel "Persuasion" refers to it as having an "autumnal" tone, which has definitely carried over into this adaptation. It makes no pretensions to being another "Pride and Prejudice," or "Sense and Sensibility", lacking those books' underlying theme of warm friendship between sisters. Nor is it like "Emma" or "Northanger Abbey," both comedies featuring immature women and their self-discovery. In other words, "Persuasion" may be a disappointment to those who passionately love one of those other stories, and expect the same thing. This is ironic, considering that some believe "Persuasion" was based on an incident in Jane Austen's real life, where she apparently turned away a suitor in her youth, and later regretted it.
Again - the "autumnal" tone is picked up by the two leads, who are older and less conventionally attractive than, say, Kate Beckingsdale or Jeremy Northam. Ciaran Hinds has a quiet charisma that grows the longer you watch him, and has developed into a viable leading man. Amanda Root begins the film as a grey little mouse and transforms into a more lovely woman halfway through, solely through her skill as an actress, and not through a film of vasoline smeared on the camera.
Those who complain that Root is not pretty enough to fit their mental image are missing the point, and probably did not read the book, where Austen points out that Anne's beauty had faded with age. (As we read on, we realize that it's her love for life that's dimmed, which in turn has affected her attractiveness to others. Her handsome father certainly becomes less good-looking each time his prissy behavior is described.)
In the film, it would be easy to pull a "Grease"-like transformation - where, like Olivia Newton John, Amanda Root comes out all dolled up in makeup and a hot bodice, ready to jump on the Regency tilt-a-whirl. But the Captain and Anne regain their passion for another through their rediscovery of each other's hearts, not their good looks - although seeing each other's good character instantly brightens their countenance and puts a spring in their step, making them much more attractive. Neither Hinds nor Root need a gallon of makeup to make this transformation believable.
The two performances that I enjoyed most, however, were that of Sophie Thompson and Fiona Shaw. Thompson, who was only vaguely boorish in "Four Weddings and a Funeral," as a woman despairing of meeting a quality mate, goes full-hog as a high maintenance mooch. Very funny.
Shaw, on the other hand, is one of the funniest things about the "Harry Potter" movies, as Harry's dreadful aunt. Here, she is positively vibrant as a happy naval wife. She just brims with love and vigor, believable as a woman who has travelled the seas to be with her husband, and who wishes happiness for her younger brother and all around her. Both the character and the portrayal make a fine contrast to Anne's waspish sisters and father, and the overindulgent yet loving Musgroves. Only five years older than costar Root, with what seems to be a great range, I wonder what charm Shaw might have brought to the role of Anne if she had been offered the part at an appropriate age.
This is a warm, and yes, subtle movie, which will chase away the blues on a winter day.
Anne Elliot, a shy, unassuming and unmarried "old maid" of 27, lives a quiet life in the country with her noble family, at Kellynch Hall. That is, until the state of her family's finances ("You must retrench!") forces them to move from their lavish home in the country, to the not-quite-so-comparable comfort of Bath, in order to rent out their home (and get themselves out of debt). The new tenants of Kellynch Hall are Admiral & Mrs. Croft, whose brother, Fredrick Wentworth, Anne had been engaged to at the tender young age of 19. Anne had reluctantly broken off their engagement at her family & friends' persuasion, as "he had nothing to recommend him: no fortune, no connections" and her spirits were said to have "never been high, since...your disappointment." When Captain Fredrick Wentworth returns from 8 years at sea, with elevated social status and newly-acquired wealth, his appearance sparks a series of events in the lives of all the Elliot girls: Elizabeth, Mary & most of all Anne...
When I saw this film as a teenager with my mom & friend at an independent theater outside Washington, D.C., I came out with a sense that this was one of the better films out there. That this was the type of film I had been looking for all my life: a wonderfully done, well-filmed, superbly-acted "period piece"...I must say that "Persuasion" was likely the start of it all for me. "Persuasion," which was then followed closely by Emma Thompson's "Sense & Sensibility," had me hooked: I had been given the bait and I had fallen for it. From that point on, I became a huge fan of period films: I have since consumed every well-known and obscure period film I could possibly get my hands on, but it all goes back to that first theatrical viewing of "Persuasion".
The dialog is amazing! The subtle ways that the Elliot family persecute Anne are beyond compare: I have never again to this day, seen such a brilliant exercise in underlying snubs & barbs: slight criticisms & faint scorns from Anne's family that are never rude or direct but are always subtle and seemingly innocuous (although they often cut to the quick). Anne takes them so well, and clearly loves her family in spite of it all. The scenes are beautifully filmed, the costuming well-done, and the scenery breathtaking. The scene where Anne reads the letter is so touching! And I must say the true-to-the-period ending scenes are simply wonderful: Jane Austen would have been proud!
For those of you worried about family-friendly content: no need to worry! There is little to object to in this film: there are very, very suble allusions to a possible liaison, so subtle that most never discover them. There is a scene where a young lady falls and hurts herself; there is a little language: a few uses of d*mn, and little else.
This quiet, unobtrusive, slow-moving, delight of film gem is well worth any time you devote to it: when watching for the first time, I would recommend giving it your full attention and not being too tired. It is very mellow & quiet, and may take you awhile to get into, but will be well worth the effort in the end. "Persuasion" would have to be one of my favorite period pieces of all time, along with "Pride & Prejudice" and "North & South." A definite must for any girl or woman interested in period pieces: this film is an utter delight!
on October 21, 2005
Other reviewers seem to see this film only as a cosy, romantic piece of escapism. I can't help but feeling that they are missing something.
This is a slow and beautiful film, which, in spite of its happy ending, has a gentle sorrow to it. Time is passing by for Anne Elliot - she's older than any other Austen heroine, and this sense of lost youth is very present in the film.
This is also one of the few films I have seen that actually captures the feeling of being in love. Anne sees Captain Wentworth passing in the street or is helped by him into a carriage - these are the small moments that can be described for a page or two in the books. Modern films tend to want more drama, but this adaptation sticks to the "small canvas" that Jane Austen worked with, and does so brilliantly.
Nothing is harder than making nice people interesting, but in this Persuasion really is a success. Amanda Root plays Anne with a lot of warmth and intelligence, and Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth is also very likeable.
Watching this film left me with a little bit melancholic, but also uplifted. It seems to describes so accurately how it feels to be alive, to love and long, with both humour and wistfulness. It's more than just escapism, and deserves better attention than playing in the background as you hover your flat.
If the pleasures of tea, a letter from a friend, sparkling oceans and ships appeal to you, this movie will be a delight. From the sunlit kitchen tables to the birds chirping at the country estates, you will find the atmosphere and sound very realistic.
This is the story of two people seeking a second chance at happiness and almost seeming to pass by one another like two ships in the night. Neither is willing to say what they are feeling as both are still emotionally distraught from their unfortunate breakup.
Anne (Amanda Root) is an angel of mercy to everyone around her. She not only provides care, she also seems to be everyone's confidante. In her eyes we see her own private torture, which she tries to hide at all costs. She feels that perhaps she made a mistake in rejecting the love of Capt. Wentworth (Ciarán Hinds), who could not provide for her financially at the time. When he appears in her life again, she fears she may lose him forever.
Her own family has gone in various directions due to their own financial difficulties. She is burdened with guilt and financial worries. At first she is shy and melancholy and then when she realizes love may again be within her reach, she blossoms into a beautiful woman who knows exactly what she wants.
The temptation at the start of this movie is to just stop the tape and rewind. However, something in the story kept me watching and the conclusion was very worthwhile. The story is not complex, yet the finer details are worth following and are at times very amusing. Some of the dialogue is so wonderful you have to rewind just to listen to it again!
Mr. Elliot: "Good company is always worth keeping."
Anne: "My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the fellowship of clever, well-informed people who have a great deal of conversation and a liberality of ideas. That is what I call good company."
Mr. Elliot: "That is not good company. That is the best."
Or when Mr. Elliot is trying to seduce Anne into marrying him he tries to work his way into her heart with some blandishment and yet Anne is only engaging in a casual dalliance.
Anne: "You presume to know me very well, Mr. Elliot"
Mr. Elliot: "In my heart...I know you...intimately."
A relaxing, beautiful and contemplative movie
you can enjoy on a cold day with a pot of tea and some
heart shaped shortbread cookies.
~The Rebecca Review
on December 22, 2005
Persuasion and Pride and Prejudice are my favorite Austen books.
Persuasion is a quiet story written near the end of Austen's life. It is about a young woman, Anne Elliot, who is persuaded to give up the man she loves because he has no means to provide for her.
Years later he comes back with money and position (a Captain of the Navy) while her fortunes have lessened. She has never gotten over him, he has never forgiven her for her rejection.
This movie does a fine job of capturing all the emotional nuances of the book.
The two leads do a marvelous job at conveying to the viewer their past history and the emotional toll it has taken upon them both.
The scene when Wentworth walks in on Mary and Anne as they are eating breakfast, the first time they've seen each other since their broken engagement, is thick with tension. The resentment is washing off of Wentworth in waves, while Anne is almost overcome.
While Wentworth courts Lousia, his anger to Anne is front and center. It is as if he is saying to her "See what you gave up? I don't need or want you anymore." Yet he still cares if she suffers, as the scene where he asks his sister to take her back to Uppercross illustrates. We feel Anne's shock and his discomfort that he would care she is tired.
The pivotal scene when Harville and Anne are debating who loves longest, man or woman, is brilliant. Both characters convey such depth of emotion yet respect for the other.
The scene where Anne reads Wentworth's declaration of love is beautiful. The director had both actors read the letter so we hear both of their voices. Wentworth's voice is full of frustration,passion and hope. Anne's voice begins incredulous and evolves in to joy.
The only complaint I have is the Mrs. Smith subplot. I wished they had left it intact, as it provides a richer texture to Anne's realization of just who Mr. Elliot really is.
I appreciated the nod to Austen's original ending (which she thankfully changed to include one my favorite love letters in literature) with the inclusion of Wentworth having a comission from the Admiral to find out where Anne and Mr. Elliot plan to live after they marry.
Root is not a Hollywood beauty, but while Anne Elliot is supposed to be pretty, time and disappointment has ravaged her looks. I thought she captured Anne perfectly.
This is my favorite screen adaptation of an Austen book. It is very true to the reflective spirit of the novel.
on November 22, 2001
The first time I watched this on the BBC I was bored. I'm a guy and romantic stories don't usually excite me much if at all - I'd never had an single interest in Austen until I saw the BBC 1995 edition of Pride and Prejudice - I only watched an episode by accident and by the end I was hooked, I went out and bought the video and I absolutely loved it, and it's still my favourite costume drama. I loved the film of Sense and Sensibility too and when I came to watch this I was expecting something of the same -and I was disappointed.
However, the ending had me hooked, and I watched the entire film again. And again. And again - and I've watched it dozens of times and I have to say it's absolutely wonderful. Its also incredibly subtle - and this is the reason why this film is so underrated, much like Austen's books were for almost a century. Once you get a grip on what the drama is about, you'll be spellbound by the breathtaking subtlety of the characters actions and motivations, the agony of Anne Elliot as she not only has to meet the long lost love of her life but listen to his attractiveness and flirting with the Musgrove girls and the pain that she suffers as a result - the dinner scene is perfect in this, and when Wentworth says "I had no wife in the year (18)06", and the camera cuts to Anne's face.
Whilst "Pride & Prejudice" and "Sense and Sensiblity" are immediate, in your face drama, this is subtle and understated, but equally as powerful and dramatic. Those drama's are fine to watch a few times, but quickly lose their charm, whereas this one only increases with enjoyment the more times you watch it, and the more times you watch it the more you understand and the more you see in it - and the more amazing it becomes. Not because of the romantic side (hey, I'm a guy, what did you expect?) but because of the wonderful sensitivity and incredible intelligence of Austen's drama. This really ought to among Amazon's Essential list of videos.