George Eliot's novel The Mill on the Floss (Penguin Classics) is one of my favorite books, and after seeing the low overall rating for this movie, I was a bit hesitant as to whether or not I wanted to watch it. But since I love the story I figured I would give it a try. I'm not yet sure of whether or not I made the right decision.
All of the actors in the movie were fine. I love James Frain in the Tudors, so I was really excited to see him play my favorite character from the book, Philip Wakem. While he did a good job in the scenes he was in, his character did not make a big impression on me. I had found him much more interesting than either Tom or Stephen, but I guess that whoever made this movie thought differently.
I was a bit concerned before watching this about the length: it's only about an hour and a half, and most good mini-series are three or four hours long. However, the short length was really no problem. They were able to include all of the important scenes without the entire film seeming rushed.
(Major spoilers-only read if you know the story) The filmmakers did not do a great job with the ending. While I absolutely love the novel, I've always felt a little bit uncomfortable with the ending. I think that Eliot just wanted to have a beautiful, tragic ending where both Maggie and Tom died together, but when she came to the end of the book, she couldn't real think of what to do, so she just ended up creating an unlikely, facile scene where they died together. Having the city suddenly flood just didn't seem to tie in too well with the rest of the story. I love tragic stories where the main characters die in the end, so I had nothing wrong with Maggie and Tom dying, I just was not impressed with the manner in which they did so. While the filmmakers did the typical things to make the ending beautiful, something about it seemed kind of corny to me.
The movie overall was entertaining, but it exposed how weak the ending of this wonderful story really is. Usually when I get through watching a mini-series or movie on one of my favorite books, I feel inspired to reread it. However, I felt sort of embarrassed to consider this one of my favorite stories after watching it. So, watch this at your own risk.