Director: Adrian Shergold
Writer: Simon Burke
Based on: Jane Austen’s novel
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Rupert Penry-Jones, Alice Krige, Anthony Head, Julia Davis, Peter Wight, Marion Bailey, Amanda Hale, Tobias Menzies
Seen on: 28.6.2015
[Here’s my review of the 1995 version.]
Many years ago, Anne Elliot (Sally Hawkins) was engaged to Frederick Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones), but took the advice of her motherly friend Lady Russell (Alice Krige), as well as listened to the opinions of her father Sir Walter (Anthony Head) and her sister Elizabeth (Julia Davis)and dissolved the engagement since Wentworth didn’t have much standing. Quite by coincidence Frederick is back in her life after years in the Navy and has made a name for himself as well as a fortune. Anne is convinced, though, that he will never forgive her for her past actions. And when her cousin William Elliot (Tobias Menzies) starts courting her, she might be getting another chance, despite being alread 27 years old and still unmarried.
Despite my love for Sally Hawkins, this version of Persuasion absolutely did not work for me. Which is not her fault, but mostly due to the script and the direction.
I’m not one to insist that a movie has to follow a book in every little detail: things work in a book that don’t work on film and vice versa. Stuff like that has to be respected. But when the changes seem unmotivated, or rather when I don’t see any reason why changes are made, I do tend to see them very critically. And there were a few little changes to the book in this film that I couldn’t go along with. Most notably there was a whole lot of running and walking around (maybe to make the film feel more dynamic) that seemed extremely weird. But there was also the fact that, while Anne and Frederick’s happy end is so incredibly sweet as to be almost unbearable, they never show them facing Anne’s family and standing up for their decision which makes the ending only half as meaningful.
It also didn’t help that we got a whole of diary-writing-voice-over which is annoying, to say the least. I also thought that the inclusion of a couple of scenes where the audience is informed of Frederick’s inner thoughts before Anne is made aware of them, took away from the tension. Something they later tried to make up for with an honest to goodness foot chase. In a Jane Austen film. Did I mention that there was a lot of weird running?
There is one thing and one thing only where this version surpasses the 1995 version, and that’s Sir Walter. Not only do they capture his vanity more nicely and manage to draw his character more sharply than the other film, Anthony Head is just plain funny and always a joy to watch.
Sally Hawkins is great, too, but her Anne collapses under the script and drowns in her own tears. Which is too bad – but makes it easy to know with which version I’ll stick from now on.