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on November 29, 2003
This early vehicle for a young Catherine Zeta-Jones does justice to the complex Hardy novel despite the constraints of the television movie format. 'La Zeta' is perfectly cast as Eustacia Vye, a mysterious beauty with 'black hair and pagan eyes' who captivates the young men of the vicinity while the older country people regard her with suspicion as a witch who is not to be trusted. Eustacia has a reputation as a loose woman in the neighborhood--she dallies with another woman's fiance out of sheer boredom, even though she is tired of him. When dashing Clym Yeobright returns home after many years abroad in Paris, Eustacia sets her cap for him, with tragic results.
Fans who have followed Zeta-Jones' high-profile career in movies such as 'Entrapment', 'Traffic' & 'Chicago' will be interested to see her here, long before Michael Douglas and Oscar came calling, in her debut role outside of her native UK. She displays all the beauty and cool self-possession of the star she would later become. She's had her teeth capped since, and been otherwise glammed up, Hollywood-style, but all the fundamentals are there. The setting is breathtaking (shot on location in Northern England), and the simple yet vivid costumes Eustacia wears add to her characterization. Eustacia/Catherine is dressed simply but vividly in tones of scarlet, yellow and turquoise blue, setting her in sharp relief to the browns and grays of the landscape, and the dull clothes worn by the other characters.
The entire cast does a superb job, but this is really Zeta-Jones' show. Whether you're a Zeta fan, or a student of Thomas Hardy, this production should be on your shelf.
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on June 15, 2006
Every English major learns never to compare a book to a movie.They are not the same vehicle.If you love period movies, this made for TV version is thoroughly engaging and compelling.Catherine Zeta Jones's performance is complex and astonishingly bewitching.She was an extraordinarily talented actress for such a young age.The supporting actors are all terrific,especially Clyve's mother.The cinematography of the moors is errie and mysterious,mirroring the the feeling of entrapment and isolation that Eustacia feels in her soul.Eustacia's plight-which choice to make-is one which women struggle with and can identify with today.The plot is a tragedy to be certain,yet keeps one wondering how our own choices in life have affected our life's course.....would it have been differing IF??I would not have missed watching this movie am thrilled to have it in my collection.We watch it over and over again.Better than most period movies.
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on March 30, 2007
Unlike the previous reviewer, I really liked this movie. It was a fascinating psychological study whether or not it was faithful to the book. Really, if you have read any of Thomas Hardy's books, you know that it would be impossible to turn any of them - even short ones like Jude the Obscure - into a movie shorter than 6 hours without having to sacrifice something! And who could stand that much suffering???

I admit that I'm particular to Catherine Zeta-Jones as she looks a lot like one of my daughters, and I think she did a fine job in this movie silently conveying inner passion and frustrated dreams. She is hypnotic and heartbreaking all at the same time.

Admittedly, Ray Stevenson was rather light and played his part like a kid playing at being an actor, but he was pretty much ignorable next to Catherine and Joan Plowright as his mother, and Steven Mackintosh as Diggory. In fact, Diggory comes across as the wisest and most stable person in the story.

In spite of the fact that it was made for TV, it was well-done and the scenery was beautiful. I've watched it twice with my children and used it as a jumping off point to discuss life and they enjoyed the movie and the discussion after!
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VINE VOICEon October 16, 2011
The story opens in southwestern England, in the year 1842. Clym Yeobright, a successful businessman, has just returned to his beloved heath after some years in Paris. He meets beautiful Eustacia Vye, the local vixen and tease, believed by many to be a witch, so powerful is her hold over men. Eustacia dreams of escaping the dull moor and sees in Clym a way to finally make it to the bright lights of Paris. Clym, however, wants to live out his days as a humble schoolmaster on the heath with his beloved Eustacia.

It's no wonder Thomas Hardy's novel is a classic and this TV-movie does it justice. The acting is uniformly excellent, the location is, in turns, bleak and wonderful, the sorrowful mood is enhanced by a plaintiff folk score, and the literate script stays close to the book. The hypnotically beautiful Catherine Zeta-Jones captures Eustacia's willfulness and pride and is perfect in the role. Clive Owen plays Damon Wildeve, a local man who lusts after the elusive Eustacia. He's very good, as is Ray Stevenson, the 'native' blinded by Eustacia's charms. Together, they form a powerful and tragic love triangle. Recommended.
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on July 30, 2008
A script that even an all-star cast couldn't salvage...
Thomas Hardy being a favorite author, I believe that this masterpiece of a classic deserved so much better than this poorly-acted and presented piece that resembled nothing more than a day-time soap opera.

Nothing more than eye candy (the beautiful landscape coupled with Clive Owen and Catherine Zeta-Zones as a striking pair), the adaptation was mediocre at best, and quite honestly painful to watch in some scenes. Any hope of improvement as the film continued was abandoned as the final credits rolled.

Do yourself a favor and give "Return of the Native" a miss. Better yet, check out more faithful and worthy Hardy adaptations by the peerless BBC, such as "Tess of the d'Urbervilles", "The Mayor of Casterbridge", and "Far From the Madding Crowd" (a particular favorite) - all amazing films that I can say enough about.
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on February 18, 2013
I stumbled on this DVD at my local library and was hooked from the first. This is a lush and intelligent adapation of Hardy's classic, with wonderful actors, absolutely stunning scenery, and a fabulous, haunting score by Carl Davis.

The protagonist, Eustacia Vye, is rather Scarlett O'Hara-esque: willful, restless, and reckless, she uses her looks and charm to manipulate those around her. Catherine Zeta-Jones brings necessary vulnerability, as well as passion, to the role, and she has both the cool confidence and smoldering beauty to make it inevitable that every man she meets is bewitched by her.

Several of Britain's finest "tried and trues" make up the supporting cast: Joan Plowright as a loving and leery mother, Claire Skinner as her tenderhearted niece, and Steven Mackintosh--in a radical departure from his uber-evil character "The Street" from "Prime Suspect"--is the wise and long-suffering Diggory Venn. Celia Imrie appears as a superstitious neighbor, and a bearded Cive Owen oozes heat and a hungry tigerishness as Damon Wildeve, Eustacia's frustrated suitor.

Ray Stevenson doesn't fare as well in the role of Clym Yeobright, the idealistic hero who comes back to his native village. Stevenson has become an extraordinary actor, but he is rather meh here. He's by no means awful, but is a bit one-dimensional and colorless compared to the other vivid characters. It doesn't help that he's saddled with the only weak dialogue in the film. I'm not sure there's anyone who could convincingly say some of his lines.

Overall, though, this is a first-rate and rewarding production. Unusual for TV historical dramas of its time, it offers an authentic look at rural life in the mid-1800's--I loved the details of the farmers painting the sheep with reddle, and the accurate costuming, and all the folk songs sung at various events. It really is like being transported to Hardy's world--except, happily, we don't have to stay there.
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on February 8, 2009
I caught the first half hour of this when it originally aired on CBS in 1994, but as I was a teenager I did not know of Thomas Hardy's work, nor did I recognize Catherine Zeta-Jones or Clive Owen as they were both unknown in North America at the time. I have since taken a liking to watching period films and reading the classic novels upon which they are based. I have read the novel of The Return of the Native several times; it is one of my favorite Hardy novels, but I couldn't help but notice some similarities to Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, similarities that are evident in the film as well. Wind-swept moors, a headstrong, misguided heroine who marries a kind-hearted but dull gentleman for opportunity and possibility of society acceptance yet she maintains her strong connection to the brooding, roguish man who is tormented by the spell she casts. Spell, of course, used as a figure of speech, although raven-haired Eustacia Vye (Zeta-Jones) is suspected to be a witch and shunned by the locals of Egdon Heath, since her effect on men seems to have some kind of bewitching quality in their eyes. Even though Damon Wildeve (Owen) is pledged to marry the fair Thomasin Yeobright (Claire Skinner), he cannot seem to shake his feelings for Eustacia, who keeps drawing him to her with her bonfires and her indecision to leave England with him. As much as she wants to escape from Egdon, she feels that somehow Wildeve is beneath her, so when Thomasin's cousin Clym (Ray Stevenson) returns from Paris, she immediately sets her sights on him and leaves Damon in the dust. He, in turn, marries Thomasin almost out of spite, hoping to hurt Eustacia, but she only pushes forward with her plan to win Clym's heart, wed him and hoping that he will take her away from the heath she despises so much. However, with Hardy, things rarely the work out the way his characters hope - Clym wants to stay in Wessex, to open a school and live simply, which only brings his wife to despair and boredom. She begins to wonder if she made a mistake, and re-encountering her former lover only cements her confusion. She is somewhat torn, and this ultimately brings on her downfall as well as Damon's. Other notable portrayals are Steven MackIntosh as reddleman Diggory Venn, who unselfishly loves Thomasin and will do anything to see her happy; his character is both honorable and down-to-earth yet possesses a kind of unworldly knowledge about what he sees around him. And the ever reliable Joan Plowright as Clym's mother turns in yet another wonderful performance. Of course, there are liberties taken (cause of death of Mrs. Yeobright is altered, omission of Damon and Thomasin's child, inclusion of more of the novel's text would have been good at the climax), but overall, for the running time, Hallmark did a commendable job with this presentation. The characters of Eustacia, Wildeve, Diggory and even Thomasin have always held more interest for me than Clym, who in my opinion was never a very compelling character to begin with, sort of like Edgar Linton. Stevenson, also a virtual unknown at the time, does well with his pretty much thankless role - I never really understood what Eustacia saw in him other than her plans for escape and maybe his idealism, but Damon was a far better match for her. With Clym, she sees what she wants to see, whereas with Damon the reality is something that she doesn't know if she wants to see (there has to be some symbolism of Clym losing his sight). Of course, Eustacia and Damon are the most tragic, and are doomed, not only because they are both outsiders and their relationship to each other (which would be considered scandalous in Victorian England), but their desire to escape is only achieved in death. One of the complaints I have about this production is how there was none of the novel's dialogue when Eustacia takes her fatal plunge and Wildeve's ill-fated attempt to rescue her included.

Filmed in Exmoor National Park (rather than in Dorset), the location does make the setting seem more rugged and wild, the music is very emotional and romantic, the cinematography very lush and pretty, Zeta-Jones is costumed more colorfully than the other women, no doubt to make to make her more distinctive (but her beauty does that alone). Very good supporting cast also. And I have to say, I cannot picture anyone else but Catherine and Clive in the roles, even when I read the novel. It's worth seeing for them and the landscape alone!
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on February 8, 2014
Saw this movie when I was young, and Catherine Zeta-Jones was an unknown. I never forgot it. I liked it, though my kids hated it and thought it was stupid. With their modern sensibilities, they thought she was a manipulative jerk. If you like Thomas Hardy, you'll like this.
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on August 9, 2015
I received the items as agreed, but I got them a day later than promised (which was 8/6). I have not had the opportunity to view this video yet, but will probably do so soon. Many, many years ago, I was a Thomas Hardy fan (the author of this story), and have always wanted to see a movie based on this particular novel, (I have seen a movie version of at least one other Hardy novel.) If I like this one, I am sure I"ll order more films based on this author's stories.
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on August 29, 2011
Without losing the "flavor" of the very good book by Thomas Hardy, the movie is excellent. Of course, Hardy wrote in descriptive detail about surroundings and inward thoughts - which could not well be portrayed in a movie, but Catherine Zeta-Jones was perfect for the lonely beautiful woman who hated the heaths, while the "native" who returned, loved them. It was beautifully done, and one I'm glad to say I will watch over again from time to time. Purchased from Amazon, which pleases me with excellent service.
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