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4 out of 5 stars
Tenant of Wildfell Hall, The
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323 of 329 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
While not wholly faithful to Anne Bronte's novel of the same name, this adaptation has much to commend it. Excellent cinematography, as well as strong performances by the entire cast, makes this a must see production for all lovers of period pieces.

An intriguing widow woman of mystery, Helen Graham (Tara Fitzgerald), moves into a crumbling residence known as Wildfell Hall. There, she sets up house with her very young son. Plain spoken, independent, and seeming to lack charm, she rebuffs the initial friendly overtures of the local townsfolk and manages to alienate most of them. Gilbert Markham (Toby Stephens), a young and handsome yeoman farmer, is not put off by her manner, however, and being smitten by her, pursues her, hoping to gain her affections. Soon, however, the townsfolk begin gossiping about her supposed assignations with a wealthy, local gentleman, Mr. Lawrence (James Purefoy), the owner of Wildfell Hall. There comes a point where even the steadfast Mr. Markham wavers in his belief in her. It is then that Mrs. Graham tells him the true nature of her relationship with Mr. Lawrence and reveals her dark past.

Rupert Graves steals the show as Arthur Huntingdon, the charming rake who captures and seduces Helen's young, romantic heart. Once married to her, however, he reveals himself to be a brutish, dissolute, and depraved philanderer, who causes her to flee their home with their young son. The role of Huntingdon is, undoubtedly, the juiciest. The film uses the narrative contrivance of flashbacks in order to explain the events that led Helen to take the extraordinary measures that she did. It tells the viewer of the sad story that brought Helen and her son to this sorry pass. Ultimately, Helen takes the high road, when an event occurs that causes her past to collide with her present. In that decision, however, lies the key to her future.

Toby Stephens is wonderful as the yeoman farmer, whose tender heart is captured by the beautiful Helen. Tara Fitsgerald, while indeed beautiful, plays the role of Helen a tad too harshly, which, while serving to alenate the townsfolk, serves also to alienate the viewer somewhat. Even though the flashbacks serve to explain her present manner, and the viewer sees her in happier days, Helen is still not as simpatico a character as she could or should be. Still, this is a handsome, though somewhat dark and somber production that those who love period pieces will appreciate and enjoy.
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169 of 173 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
This video (which runs for 160 mins) follows rather closely to the classic novel by Anne Bronte (except for the ending - nevertheless, it will still please you).
The production is lavish, the costumes beautiful and very correct to the period of time. The cast very capably brought to life the characters of the suffering Helen Graham, the scoundrel Arthur Huntington and the love-struck Gilbert Markham.
Tara Fitzgerald appeared a little miscast, owing to her often unnecessarly harsh displays of emotions and an unsuitable gruffy voice. But because she played the role of Helen Graham (who's an exceedingly likable heroine), I grew to ignore all that and found myself rooting for Helen to find all the happiness she deserves.
I simply love Toby Stephens whom I think, is just perfect as Gilbert, the handsome, young gentleman farmer who sees the goodness in Helen and seeks to protect her from the hypocrisy and prejudice shown by his unkind relatives and neighbours.
The cinematography is lush and breathtaking. It's obvious that this is a well-planned production with no expense spared.
I have only 1 minor complaint - that the romantic scenes involving Helen and Gilbert weren't made more passionate (the way it should be). Instead, we see more displays of love and affection between Helen and Lord Huntington (during their courtship days and early marriage). And to what purpose do they serve? - Since we know just what a brute Huntington turns out to be later!
If you love this video, please pick up the book (ie. if you haven't already) - the book fleshes out the thoughts, emotions and agonies of the love-lorn Gilbert much more effectively than could be captured on film.
Nevertheless, I love this video. It's great to have in one's collection for repeated viewings.
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108 of 109 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
"The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" is based on the Victorian novel by Anne Bronte. It tells the story of secretive, passionate and outspoken Helen Graham who lives quietly with her young son in Wildfell Hall. She befriends a young neighborhood farmer, Gilbert Markham, and he falls in love with her, despite her objections. It soon unfolds that Helen is "on the run" from her privileged life and her cruel, alcoholic husband - Arthur Huntingdon - and a series of flashbacks tell the story of her life with him. The story itself is engrossing and, like Jane Eyre, it's ultimately a story of a strong woman overcoming the odds and coming out triumphant in the end.
The BBC has done a great job with this production. Tara Fitzgerald ("The Woman in White," "Brassed Off") is perfectly cast as the downtrodden but feisty Helen. Handsome actors Toby Stephens ("The Great Gatsby") and Rupert Graves ("Room with a View," "Mrs. Dalloway") are excellent as the devoted Gilbert and the detestable Huntingdon. Tara Fitzgerald and Toby Stephens have a chemistry that most would find irresistible. The performances from the principal actors are excellent and Rupert Graves does such a good job that I found myself hating and pitying him at the same time. I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys Bronte's work or first-rate British drama.
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55 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 1999
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
Unlike Jane Austen who romanticized the travails her heroines had to endure in order to attain love, social position, and wealth, this engaging adaption of the Anne Bronte classic proves the old adage that one should always be careful of what they wish for. They just might get it.
This film is essentially a moral tale on the dangers of infatuation, the soul killing effect of an abusive and loveless marriage, and the possibility of love refound for a heart zinged once too often.
Tara Fitzgerald gives a performance worthy of any Oscar actress as the lead character Helen Grahm, who in the beginning is fooled into love by a "gentleman" who has everything a woman could look for in a husband. Yet she discovers to her horror her husband is much more than the upstanding lord he makes himself out to be.
As the "upstanding gentelman," Rupert Graves plays a character that could easily have been portrayed as a typical lord/lout found in many novels. His Lord Huntingdon is much more complicated. Truly a man created by an environment of entitlement, wealth, and absolute power bestowed on members of the upper classes. And this film holds no punches to depict how truly awful he and his friends were in their relationships with the fairer sex.
As for Toby Stephens, he is the embodiment of the renewing effects love can have on a person who has suffered so much. His determination to forgo the consequences of befriending Ms. Grahm and assisting her may seem cliched, but Stephen's presents a man who acts not only out of his own personal emotional needs, but a greater indignant reaction to the injustice of the situation of Ms. Grahm.
Wonderful performances, beautiful cinematography, a strong storyline, and timeless characters all add up to provide a romantic, yet realistic film.
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51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 11, 2008
Format: DVD
"The Tenant of Wildfell Hall," a feature-length 1996 television costume drama produced by the British Broadcasting Corporation, was seen here on broadcast TV in 1997. It was based upon the little-known book of the same name, published in 1848, by the Victorian-era British author Anne Bronte. She is the least-known of the three famous Bronte sisters, all of whom specialized in moody works set on England's scenic moors, upon which they were raised. Emily Bronte, of course, gave us Wuthering Heights ; Charlotte,Jane Eyre. And some of us probably can't help thinking that were Anne not a Bronte, this work would neither have survived, nor have been adapted for television, as it's rather heavy going.

It concerns Helen Huntingdon, in flight from an alcoholic, brutal, but wealthy and high-status husband, Arthur Huntington. She has taken her young son Arthur, and taken up residence, as the dour and mysterious Mrs. Helen Graham, in a rundown Hall on the moors. It's not long before a handsome young yeoman farmer of the vicinity, Gilbert Markham, takes an interest in her, and her son. It's also not long before malicious gossip about her begins to circulate around the isolated village to which she has moved.

Much of the movie is set on the moors, and it has received the typical lush BBC treatment in the matters of location shooting, costumes, set decoration, carriages, etc. Unfortunately, while the camera whirls around and around, it doesn't succeed in making the production any less static. Mind you, I see where some other reviewers have complained about gratuitous scenes of sex and violence thrown in; but some of us may find them a bit of a relief. And the frequent flashbacks can be a major source of confusion.

Furthermore, let's be perfectly clear about this: the underlying 1848 book was an important early proto-feminist document. I've not read it for many a year, but its filmed treatment lays out mercilessly the frustrating, restricted lives of women at that time, ranging from suffering under benign domestic tyranny, to their extreme difficulties in making independent livings, or living independently, to the fact that, upon marriage, a woman, her money, and any children she might have, became the property of her husband. On those grounds, book, and any treatment thereof deserve respect. But surely not affection.

Tara Fitzgerald (Waking the Dead); stars as Helen: she's a beautiful woman, high of cheekbone; her beauty survives even a possibly historically accurate, but surely unfortunate hairdo. She's also a very likable actress; it was an excellent idea to cast her as the not-easy-to-like Helen, preachy, holier-than-thou, and severe. In fact, Helen can perhaps best be compared to the 20th century American figure Carrie Nation. Many of us may agree that Ms. Nation's heart was in the right place. She was a suffragist; she opposed the consumption of alcohol because she thought it had many undesirable results. And let's say we're in agreement with her: still,Carrie with her axe, laying waste to bars, in support of Prohibition,could not have been a pleasant sight. And, at times, Helen Huntingdon seems only to lack the axe. (So let us not forget that Bronte pere was a clergyman, and, in fact, must have been one tough old bird: in his seventies, one day, he drank down a bottle of brandy, then submitted to what must have been an excruciatingly painful cataract operation.) Well, anyway, a modern audience may have trouble deciding who'd be most unpleasant to live with, Helen; or her hell-bound husband Arthur. As beautifully played by the handsome Rupert Graves (V for Vendetta ); he clearly is dissolute, and will come to an early, bad end; but he's charismatic, recognizes his own limitations; gives every sign of having a sense of humor, even about himself. (It seems likely that the author modeled him on the fourth Bronte child, the only boy, Branwell. That weak young Bronte, son of a clergyman and in a household of brilliant women, was an alcoholic, an opium eater, and died at age 31.)

Toby Stephens (Jane Eyre ) is a handsome, sexy Gilbert Markham, yearning to lighten up Helen and her life: he lights up quite a few scenes. And Pam Ferris (Rosemary & Thyme - The Complete Series) does good work as his mother, Mrs. Markham. As to the DePue subtitles report: thank goodness, the production has them, as you're getting all kinds of country accents. But the BBC has again made the subtitles rather tricky to access. This production has its virtues; but it wouldn't be to everyone's taste. It's not to mine.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on July 6, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
If you are a fan of the gentlile Austen productions then this may not be your cup of tea, the Bronte novels were always grittier and harsher, speaking of struggle and cruelty towards women of the time. This is not exactly a faithful representation, modern audience pleasing devices are used to give the story a hook. Sometimes this is necessary with Victorian novel adaptaions as issues which where then shocking now barely raise an eyebrow, but I think not so with Bronte work, the gritty realism of times past in their novels is actually more shocking now for it's utter cruelty. For my money, adding modern twists for hook value cheapens the work.

Nonetheless, Graves is excellent and steals the show, Stevens is perfect as the romantic hereo but Fitzgerald is just a little too harsh, cold and unconvinsing. I had little connection, empathy nor sympathy with her characterisation and yet read the novel and the opposite happens, it strikes me she is trying to inject too much of the modern woman into the role which takes a whole dimension away from the character and robs the story.

Still, worth a shot if only for the male leads.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on January 30, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
This dark morality tale of Anne Bronte's is my favorite of all the Bronte novels. It is the only one whose main character (Helen Graham) grew up a light-hearted girl with every advantage in life. Such a person would usually be seen as selfish and weak-willed in other Bronte novels, but as she deals with the new realities of married life, her intellect and spiritual power prove to be formidable. The advantages she was raised with seem to serve her with a deep inner knowledge that the customary place of a wife in Britain at that time is not for her. She does not hide nor apologize for her innocent love and devotion and does not make being a victim cheat her out of her living her own life. Although this rendition of the story is more pessimistic than I felt when reading the novel, I enjoyed it thoroughly and have enjoyed watching it several times. Tara Fitzgerald et al. are superbly cast and the sets and costumes are magnificent.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2008
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
This movie is about people and situations that are not always what they seem. A widow named Helen Graham--played skillfully by Tara Fitzgerald, along with her young son, move into an old estate and attempt to just live day to day, minding their own business. The townspeople however, are very curious about the rather aloof newcomer and her overprotectiveness of her son. Helen is a self dependant woman who sells her paintings to make a living, and does not wish to let strangers come too close. One of the townspeople, Gilbert Markham--played by the ever handsome Toby Stephans, can not help but be drawn to Helen and wishes to learn more about her. Helen hides a secret and eventually she shares it with Gilbert. Helen is not the widow as she portrays. She is married to a complete rake of a man, Arthur Huntingdon-played by the talented Rupert Graves, who has never been totally faithful to her. Arthur takes off months at a time to carouse with his buddies, leaving Helene alone to raise their infant son. Later, when their son is a little older, the alcoholic Arthur and his band of goon friends force the boy to drink-which he promptly throws up-to make the boy become, "a man". Arthur then hires a governess to teach the boy as punishment to Helen, keeping her away from the son she loves dearly, as she begins to despise what Arthur is doing to himself, their son and their marriage. Finally having endured enough of Arthur's abuse and fearing for the safety and well being of her son, she, her maid and son make a mad dash to freedom and arrive at Wildfell Hall, where she assumes the dress of a widow to stay in hiding. By the time Gilbert understands all that Helen has been through, Arthur has discovered where she is and brought her and their son back to their home. There Helen stays, being faithful as always to her husband, and taking a stand against his abuse and infidelity. Arthur is now gravely ill from years of alcohol and debauchery and Helen fires the governess, who was also an enabler to Arthur's alcoholism. One of Arthur's friend's tries to put the moves on Helen, but she rebuffs him, telling him she made a promise to her husband to be faithful and for the man to never come back again. Gilbert comes to rescue her, telling her she is too good for her husband, but Helen is an honest, righteous woman, and though she cares for Gilbert, she can not, nor will not, cheat on her husband. Eventually Arthur dies and Helen and her son return to Wildfell Hall. ****SPOILER ALERT**** On the way to the hall, they spot a wedding reception going on in town and Helen sees Gilbert talking and laughing with a bride. She assumes Gilbert got tired of waiting for her and married, and is saddened by this. Gilbert is told by one of the guests at the reception that they saw Helen ride by in her coach. He rushes off to see her and asks about her husband. She tells him he has died and tells Gilbert congratulations on his wedding. He explains that it wasn't he who got married but someone else. So now these two, who have been growing in love, can now be free to be married. I've watched this movie SO many times and I just love it.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on October 7, 2005
Format: VHS Tape
I didn't read the book so I can't say how faithful this is to the book but I did see this movie that starred Tara Fitzgerald and Rupert Graves and I loved it! It is definitely one of the best British period piece costume movies I have ever seen and I think it should be put on DVD! This definitely gets my vote for a DVD release!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 1998
Format: VHS Tape
This is a good attempt at a wonderful novel dealing with a woman's attempt to find independence from an abusive husband in the mid nineteenth century. There were wonderful performances all around (I did not expect Rupert Graves to be believable as the perverse and self-destructive Arthur Huntingdon; happily I was wrong). My only complaint is with the end of the film: that particular part of the novel was tampered with until it was beyond recognition on the screen. In all other respects _Tenant_ is a lovely film, but everyone ought to read Anne Bronte's masterpiece.
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