Wives and Daughters (film)

wives and daughters 2Earlier this summer, I read Elizabeth Gaskell’s lovely long novel Wives and Daughters (you can read my review of it here.) In the comments, several of you told me that I would enjoy the BBC adaptation of it, so when I had a sick day last week, I got in bed with my knitting and watched the entire thing.

All I can say is: you were right. This four-part adaptation, written by Andrew Davies (of course) and directed by Nicholas Renton, was pitch-perfect in every respect. The casting was wonderful, from Justine Waddell as the steadfast Molly Gibson to Keeley Hawes as the changeable Cynthia Kirkpatrick, Francesca Annis as Clare, Tom Hollander as Osborne Hamley, and — honestly — every other character as well. The settings were perfect, showing off the slight differences in social class that make such a difference in the book. The writing did justice to every scene, and the dialogue was straight from the book. None of the characters were turned into caricatures; everyone was allowed to be rounded and complex.

One thing I should point out in particular: Michael Gambon, as Squire Hamley, is such a brilliant actor that he almost threw the entire adaptation off balance. I am of the opinion that truly great actors don’t “steal” scenes, they take a whole part, polish it, and make it better even for actors who can’t match their talent. But Gambon’s performance was so brilliant, the squire’s pain so real, that he threatened to be more important than any of Molly’s small affairs (as I am sure Molly would have agreed, herself!) This isn’t a criticism. I was just interested in the way it appeared to me in this adaptation, which I enjoyed every minute of. Thanks for all the recommendations, everyone!

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8 Responses to Wives and Daughters (film)

  1. Steph says:

    I haven’t read any Gaskell (yet! I really want to read something of hers soon), but this sounds fantastic. I really enjoy Davies’s adaptations, so when I get around to reading this one I’ll keep this in mind. So glad to hear you enjoyed it so much!

  2. JaneGS says:

    Having recently reread W&D, I’m slowly rewatching W&D and loving every minute of it. So glad you liked it too. I thought it perfect, including the ending, which had to be invented, but it worked for me.

  3. adevotedreader says:

    Phew, I’m glad you enjoyed this. I particularly liked being able to see the ending as obviously in the novel it’s only sketched in.

  4. Tara says:

    I’m glad you liked this! It’s a favorite of mine.

  5. Jenny says:

    Steph — I hadn’t read any Gaskell until this year, and she’s terrific. I’ve liked both Cranford and this one, and I plan to read North & South next. Victoriana ahoy!

    JaneGS — oh, I didn’t even mention the ending! I don’t think it’s what Gaskell would have written at all, but it was satisfying anyway. :)

    Devotedreader — with the novel’s unfinished ending, I agree that it was nice to see what happened! But the whole adaptation was lovely.

    Tara — I can see why it’s a favorite! Perfectly done.

  6. Melanie says:

    So glad to hear you enjoyed it. It’s one of my favourite films, and I liked the ending they gave it; it was a fun modern idea that felt like a bit of a wink to our modern sensibilities. By the end of the film I was half in love with Roger Hamley myself. ;)

  7. Caryn says:

    Looooooved the ending … But I made the mistake of watching North and South first, and then Wives and Daughters. N&S was, imho, much more interesting and complex and substantial and W&D. Have you seen (or read) it?

  8. Jenny says:

    Melanie — it was a fun idea at the end. And who could resist Roger?

    Caryn — no, N&S is next on my list of Gaskell’s works, and then I’ll watch the adaptation. Great to hear that it’s even better than this one, which I really enjoyed! By the way, weren’t you the one who recommended Opening Skinner’s Box to me…?

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