on January 28, 2008
I have been systematically working through many of the wonderful period dramas that the BBC has to offer and I was pleasantly surprised by their version of "Our Mutual Friend", which was Charles Dickens's last novel (and, dare I say, one of his best). There are many interesting plotlines that are all connected to each other through the "mutual friend", John Harmon (subtly yet beautifully played by Steven Mackintosh). All of the actors are somewhat lesser known, but I believe that this only enhances their performances, making them able to become fully immersed in their respective characters. I especially loved the romantic story that developed between Bella (a young Anna Friel at her feisty best) and John, as well as Keeley Hawes' portrayal as a poor working-class girl. Overall it was a wonderful adaptation, providing social commentary on Victorian England, romance, mystery, and danger, with characters that you can't resist falling in love with.
on February 27, 2008
For the first 20 minutes of this film, I thought, "Oh no, this is going to be one of those dark, gloomy Dickens tales," and I almost gave up on it. I'm so glad I didn't, because before long I was glued to the screen, and it stayed with me for days after seeing it. Beautifully acted, masterfully directed, it's a gem and now ranks as one of my favourite films of all time.
on September 8, 2006
I got this DVD in a box set and, not knowing the story (mea culpa), I watched all the others and kept this one for a long rainy week-end. Why didn't it pour before? It was the best of the lot! I was completely taken by this story! Need I say I got the book and read it with sheer delight? This story is fantastic, the dialogues are clever and the acting is really first-rate. Particularly worth mentioning is Anna Friel. She is spot-on and so believeable in this part that you'd think it had been written (by Dickens himself) especially for her. One must not forget the very touching Stephen Mackintosh. This man is able to convey so much with a single look, and he has that rare quality: he makes you care even before the plot unfolds and you understand what motivates his character to act a certain way. I've been watching it many times over since my first viewing, and I always see something new because all the other characthers are so well portrayed (no big names, only incredibly good actors, that's what I love about the BBC, they'd rather have an unknown who is perfectly cast rather than a miscast star just to "get the ratings").
on May 10, 2010
This movie is unforgetable. The plot is intense, the romance is a pleasure and the acting is superb! I highly recommend this for anyone who values an extremely well done period drama.
on February 6, 2001
I first read "Our Mutual Friend" when I saw the version done for Masterpiece Theater in the late 1970s, starring Leo McKern, Jane Seymour, and John McInerny. I devoured the book; it was and remains my favorite of all of Dickens's books. For one thing, the heroines are not as saccharine as they usually are in Dickens. I have been trying for years to find the original TV version on video, but it's not available, so I was happy when they came out with a new version. That is, until I saw it.
The greatest flaw is that this version is far to short to do justice to the story. The first version took 9 hours; here they try to squeeze the story into 2, and it's a mistake. Important characters are eliminated or have almost nothing to do. Even the main characters are not allowed to show us who they really are. Subplots are entirely missing. There's no time to develop any tension over Mr. Boffin's personality change or Lizzy's disappearance.
Nor is the acting up to the level of the first version. In particularly, I wanted to give Stephen MacIntosh some Prozac! His John Rokesmith was so passive and depressed, I could hardly bear him. The actor who played Eugene was too blithe and showed none of Eugene's inner torment. Most of all, I missed Leo McKern's Mr. Boffin. He brought the character to life exactly as written.
I won't buy this version or ever see it again. I will just read the book and keep hoping that someday, I'll be able to see the McKern version again.
on July 16, 2004
I love this movie. I first saw it on PBS, and only because a family member made me do it. I'm not a PBS'er by nature, but once I got into this, I was hooked. This is a Dickens' novel that I can't believe I'd never heard of before, because it's easily one of his best. It contrasts two segments of old English society, in typical Dicken's style. The "dustmen" earn their living from "dust" - sort of the old English equivalent of junkyards, but worse - the dead bodies cast into the river. Dustmen go through their pockets and scavange old estates to sell off their loot for income. The story opens with an intriguing murder mystery. In the confusion, one dustmen and his wife inherit a large sum of money and find themselves in high society and trying to cope. But ... whose money is it really? Who are their real new - and old - friends? And while these folks - the Boffins - are main characters, they are, by no means, the only ones. Along the way there are two major romantic stories that weave throughout and form the core of the story. But this is not just a "chick flick", it's a brilliant study of old 19th century British culture. The story includes some rather enchanting surprises. And the number of very original and interesting characters are funny, heartbreaking, insightful, inspiring, maddening, and more.
One suggestion: some of the British accents are hard to make out. I put the "closed caption" feature on my TV so I could read what the characters were saying. Makes it a lot easier to understand some of the more extreme English accents.
All the acting is top-notch, but one acting job bears note: Anna Friel is brilliant in this film.
I've watched my tape many times, all six hours of it. I love it. SO GET IT ALREADY!
on April 29, 2004
This production is so popular in our home that we set aside time once a year to savor it... no more, or it might get too familiar and that would be, appropriate in Dickensian terms, a tragedy! The actors truly become their roles. Six hours isn't a minute too long. I always feel a poignant regret when it's over..."not so soon?"
The plot keeps its suspense on several levels (romantic, physical, financial, political) to the end, and is full of exquisite moments that make your heart stop: when Bella asks John Harmon by the fireplace to "stop watching me, stop judging me"; when the pathetic schoolmaster Bradley Headstone tells Lizzie in the cemetery that he is under her power; when Lizzie and Eugene meet in the summer meadow; when Bella is under the impression that John is being shamed by Mr. Boffin; and when Eugene plays on Lizzie's good nature to get her to accept his offer of schooling. The dialogue is so well-rendered, one wonders if it is possible for this movie to be an improvement upon the book, in taking the story's personalities and emotions to a higher level than even Dickens imagined.
Costumes: lovely (Bella's especially). Sets: certainly satisfactory. Music: haunting (and a bit repetitious). Outdoor scenes: darn good for BBC (why did it take so long anyway for British cameras to film clear outdoor scenes?) But the acting outshines these all, and it alone could float this production (as it does in the Dalton-Clarke BBC version of "Jane Eyre"). My favorite characters (each to be savored like a dessert, frankly) are Eugene Wrayburn, Bella Wilfer, Mrs. Boffin, Mortimer Lightwood and Lizzie Hexam.
This movie is utterly complete, satisfying, and so finely tuned and poised on the heights where it belongs, that all the way through you hold your breath, waiting for it to crash down or lose its way, and it never does. If only we all could express ourselves and feel our emotions as deeply as these people do! What a grand world it would be.
Needless to say, perhaps, "Our Mutual Friend" is my family's mutually favorite movie. And the sooner that the powers that be release it on DVD, the better!
on April 10, 2004
I love the BBCs costume dramas like Middlemarch and Pride and Prejudice, but because I hadn't enjoyed Oliver Twist when I read it I expected that anything by Dickens would be heavy going. How wrong I was!
I finished watching it yesterday afternoon and intend to watch some of my favourite bits and the beginning over again today so I can see how characters were brought in, as with so many people in it, it takes a while to establish who's who and which characters are central, for instance I paid little attention to the character of Eugene Wrayburn in the first episode and later on he becomes central.
The story is multi-layered and to outline it simply - a dead body is found in the thames, a mutual friend, whose discovery draws together the lives of many people, the dead mans lawyer, Mortimer, and Eugene his friend, the man who found the body Gaffer Hexam and his children Lizzy and Charlie, Bella the girl who the dead mans father had choosen for him to marry, the Boffins who now inherit the fortune and the mysterious John Rokesmith, Boffins secretary who insists on viewing the body, and shows a marked interest in Bella.
The film is beautifully shot and the costumes are gorgeous. The story is complex and realistic and doesn't fall into simplification. And as for the characters - they are so real and 3D and the performances are just right.
I particulary enjoyed the love triangle between the spoilt, lazy, cynical Eugene, the innocent, intelligent Lizzy and the repressed later crazed school teacher, it had me in tears at one point and although it led to a happy ending it didn't feel cliched because the performances are so believeable and it was so sensitivly handled. Paul McGann gives a especially good performance as Eugene, among a very strong cast, all the actors are great, the bone collecter, the dolls dressmaker and the Boffins (none of whose names I can remember) stand out in particular as does Anna Friel as Bella .
This is the first story I couldn't wait to see more of since I read the English Patient, I watched it in five 'sittings' and rushed to do other things so I could get them finished so I had time to sit down and watch more!!! It really was that good, well done BBC!
on January 18, 2003
In this BBC miniseries "Our Mutual Friend", every bit of bittersweet of life is conveyed most incisively. It is a quite lengthy (three-tape of totally 339 min) production, and yet, with all the drama - life and death, love and hatred, passion and thriller - to tighten the grip, you won't feel the time once you start watching. It is a quite complicated plot with many characters, and yet, it is unfolded methodically such that you will actually enjoy the dimensions and dynamics.
Strongly sensed, while watching this 1860s story, is its close relevance to the realities of true life, even modern life. The drama of John Harmon and his inheritance, around which the whole story is extended, exemplifies the struggle between love and money, which is a constant battle ever going on. The ending of young Harmon winning his true love without his money and Bella Wilfer, John's designated bride, finding her true self, fathoms the root of noble humanities. In character Lizzie Hexam there is writer's idealism, which made this boatman's daughter bearing unique grace and beauty although without any education. Luckily the truthfulness of the love between Lizzie and Eugene Wrayburn can be found in real life and so is its result - a magic of love - that's revealed in the story.
There is no writer who could better dig into human natures and create edgy characters than Charles Dickens. In this final work of him, the broadly and deeply depicted characters, ranging from the upper crust to the lowest rung, prove for another time that he is truly the master. The actors and actresses, who have brought life to the characters, even the smallest ones, have played the roles to the bones. Needless to say this masterwork deserves such fine craft. Only if such fine work can be released on DVD, it'd be perfect.
on July 16, 2001
This is one of my all time favorite movies. It is a masterful adaptation of the sometimes wordy Dickens. Having read the book, I must say that whoever adapted this script was very skillful. Characters who were not as interesting were pushed into the background (Fledgeby and Gerogianna Podsnap were eliminated altogether) leaving the way clear for the much more facinating characters.
I enjoyed all of the preformances. As to Stephen Mackintosh, his character has been betrayed, thought to be dead and is in a terrible moral dilema. One cannot expect him to leap for joy under such circumstansces. Plus, it's so much cooler when he finally loses his temper at the end.
My favorite part of the movie is the Lizzie/Eugene/Headstone love triangle. Eugene's world weariness is played subtley and Lizzie's innocence is never over done. As for Headstone, nervous breakdowns are very hard to do without looking silly and this actor manages to be scary and pathetic at once, it really adds a lot to the plot.
The music is just perfect, the costumes are great (Bella's white ball gown is amazing) and the sets are ideal.
I should warn people that the first tape is very hard to get into the first time out. Maybe it is too dark with too many characters at once. I considered turning it off after the first twenty minutes. However, get past the first tape and you will be hopelessly addicted.
One more thing. The movie is 5-6 hours, not 2, so there is plenty of time to savour the action.