When I first discovered this on Amazon last summer, my near initial reaction was “What!!!??? Another North and South??? How can there be? What in the world do they think they're doing?” (Never mind, of course, that it was done thirty years before you-know-what. Entirely beside the point.) All most unsettling–very.
But on the other hand, if there was another (decent) version of N&S, how could we not watch it? The whole idea had a kind of dreadful fascination...and then there's all that about having an open mind.
The cost when it was released was quite prohibitive, so in the end–still with highly mixed feelings–I placed a purchase request for it at the library. They agreed to get it and we were #1 on a hold list that promptly shot to almost 10. So far so good. We settled down and began waiting...and waiting...and waiting...and waiting some more. Weeks passed. Then–guess what happened? The week, the very week before our big trip, it arrived. Of course, there was no possible way to fit an almost four hour movie into our last long/short/busy/final week at home, so we had to send it back unwatched. An agonizing experience.
But–we thought–at least it will give us something to look forward to after coming home. By this time–due to studying the movie case firsthand, watching the trailer, etc.–our mixed feelings were rapidly dissipating and we were eager to see it. Fortunately in the end, it more than fulfilled our expectations. :-) So now for my review...
First off there were a number of familiar faces:
|Robin Bailey as Mr. Hale (appeared several times in the |
b/w Robin Hood tv series with Richard Green)
|Kathleen Byron as Mrs. Hale |
(Miss Lavender in the 1975 BBC Anne of Avonlea mini-series)
|Tim Pigott-Smith as Frederick |
(Mr. Hale in the 2004 BBC North and South)
|Shirley Cain as wife-of-the-new-vicar-of-Helstone |
(Mrs. Phillips in the 1985 BBC P&P)
Secondly–sets and so forth: The sets are well done, while the costumes and hairstyles are really quite good and not too dated. We were a little worried in the first scene, but that concern quickly ironed itself out. (While I'm on the subject–Margaret has a particularly gorgeous, gold-colored, wide-sleeved jacket during the riot scene. ;-)) All in all everything feels very true to period. Higgins and Bessy are well played, pretty much straight out of the book–as are Mr. and Mrs. Hale, Mrs. Thornton, and Fanny.
And now for what you're all really wondering about...
Mr. Thornton and Margaret Hale
Patrick Stewart is of course famous for his role in Star Trek (which I have not seen), and I think he does an excellent job as Thornton. I fully entered into Margaret's initial misunderstanding and dislike of him. He was loud, quick, and imperious, but he could smile unexpectedly, too–even laugh. And yes–he has an accent!
Rosalind Shanks did a wonderful job as Margaret. Very gentle and soft-spoken she does an outstanding job carrying the weight of the changes Margaret goes through–reflecting both the sorrow and quiet joy. She has very speaking eyes, the sweetest smile, and is a true lady throughout.
Together, Thornton and Margaret were very good. The errors and need for growth on both sides comes across clearly and the romantic element is very present. Sparks fly and there are definitely strong undercurrents from the get-go. *Warning (bit of a spoiler here): the riot happens and–then bang! there it is–and between them there's no going back. :-) And then they show afterward–I mean, how she gets up to the sitting room while in a faint. ;-) Okay, end of spoiler.* I didn't do too badly, did I? Anyhow, lest that make you nervous, there are no even remotely indecent scenes–or even scenes where you feel it possibly could go odd.
~Some miscellaneous points: Boucher has far more brains here and orchestrates the riot–which works fine. ~ The first part of the story goes pretty much point by point and the second part moves faster, condensing a bit of the development–personal development on both sides and also as regarding the mill failure. ~ There were some gentle, yet quite humorous moments–two that spring to mind being the duty-bent constables and Lennox's anecdote about Tennyson (which was hilarious if you've read any Tennyson). ~ And finally, the whole film has much of the direct religious language and influence of the book.
Going into it, I was initially nervous that it would change my perception of the story in the sense of, “Is this true? Is this really the story? Have I been misreading it all this time?” (I've had that experience before with something else.) But it didn't. It was just a different take on it. And as far as the films go I think you can like both versions (I do at least) without viewing one or the other as “better”. Both are faithful to the book, diverging about the same amount–just in different areas.
My final verdict? Is that I thoroughly enjoyed it–still find it thought-provoking–would like to see it again–and am thrilled to be able to recommend it without reservation!