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"The Tenant of Wildfell Hall"
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Index 19 reviews in total 

38 out of 39 people found the following review useful:

Hope and experience; passion, vice, and virtue

Author: Caledonia Twin #1 (
5 September 2000

What can be said of the compelling performance of Tara Fitzgerald? She is utterly believable as the injured Mrs Graham, hardened by experience, sharp and strong-willed, yet not immune to the passionate attentions of Mr Markham. Through every mischievous glance and every flare of temper, every flicker of discernment in his eyes and telling facial expression, Toby Stephens is a master of his character. He is the force of passion and hope that will restore Helen's injured spirit. Graves' Huntingdon is a perfect performance of the unreformable rogue. Yet despite all he has done, there is an undeniable human dignity in his refusal to play the hypocrite at the end; he is at least aware of his own failings and how they have brought his ruin. Helen's attempt to save his soul-- after leaving him and taking their child at a time when this was unheard of--is a triumph of hope, hope and faith in the worth of every human life and soul, however misguided, however sinful that person may be. Markham's constancy may then be seen as her reward for her faith and unyielding moral character. Though the opinionated ideas of morality so strongly presented in Tenant seem outdated by today's standards, the story is imbued with integrity, passion, and conviction which still make an impact. Tenant is far more believable than Wuthering Heights or even Jane Eyre; here is an adaptation that does the novel justice. I highly recommend viewing it!

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35 out of 38 people found the following review useful:

A romantic, if somewhat bleak, feminist drama

Author: penny-45 from Lytchett Matravers, England
6 March 2001

I first saw this mini-series a number of years ago on British television and was immediately captivated by the story. This rather surprised me as I am not a great fan of either 'Jane Eyre' or 'Wuthering Heights'; I consider the heroine of the former to be a self-righteous bore, and the latter piece of work as overblown claptrap.

'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall', like the aforementioned works, is also somewhat depressing in parts. However, the darker parts of the film were offset by the excitement of Helen's escape, the breathtakingly wild and beautiful landscape of Yorkshire, and the sexual magnetism of Toby Stephens.

This film successfully portrays the frustratingly restrictive lifestyle of all women of the time. At best they suffered from a form of minor domestic tyranny as portrayed by the treatment of the womenfolk in the Markham household. At the other end of the scale, there is the unfortunate Helen who is married to a wealthy man of high estate, but is exposed to brutality and humiliation alternating with long periods of neglect. She runs away and experiences a brief moment of freedom but, as a women of mystery living alone in a rural community, she inevitably becomes the subject of spiteful gossip and speculation.

Tara Fitzgerald is excellent as the long-suffering Helen Markham. Not only incredibly beautiful (in spite of that terribly unflattering hairstyle) with the most amazing cheekbones, she is also more than capable of playing the central role in the film. Tara is dignified and aloof while, at the same time, allowing us to see that Helen is still dangerously vulnerable. Rupert Graves IS the depraved, yet curiously attractive Arthur Huntingdon - after seeing him, I could never imagine another actor playing that part. Pam Ferris deserves special mention for her role as Gilbert's indulgent mother, as does the actress who played his sister Rose, and Simon Carter who is the uncharitable vicar with a taste for the Good Things in Life. Finally, I could watch this film for Toby Stephens alone; he is so good-looking,rugged, sexy, sensitive (but not in a nauseatingly sentimental way). I am not even sure if he is a good actor as my hormones prevent me from judging him objectively!

If there is a fault with the film it is the use of flashbacks which I felt both interfered with the flow of the story and made it slightly confusing. Other people, who have watched this film with me, also had problems with this, and I found I had to explain to them that certain scenes were in fact retrospective.

I am extremely grateful for the people responsible for making this film. Not only did I puchase the video (a rare occurrence), but it led me to buy Anne Bronte's superb novel. Naturally, this was better than the film, but only by a narrow margin. I recommend that anyone interested should watch the film and then read the book in that order.

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27 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Marvellous film ...

Author: CustardcatPenny1 from United Kingdom
16 May 2005

Anne Brontes epic novel THE TENANT OF WILDFELL HALL should be studied and read throughout schools and libraries and peoples living rooms. Its a fantastic story and tells the "real" truth on alcoholism and ruined marriages and a mothers fight to keep her son away from her brutal husband. Its so alike todays stories that we see and hear and I believe people can learn a lot from reading this book. Based on possible true experiences that the author had back in the 1840s.

Do watch this film, its a great version of the book and very moving indeed. I'm sure Anne herself would have been happy with the way it was produced.

Excellent acting and great locations.

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18 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

A Wonderful Romance.....

Author: moonbeam-1 from Susanville, California
25 January 2002

I loved this mini series. Tara Fitzgerald did an incredible job portraying Helen Graham, a beautiful young woman hiding, along with her young son, from a mysterious past. As an anglophile who loves romances... this movie was just my cup of tea and I would recommend it to anyone looking to escape for a few hours into the England of the 1800's. I also must mention that Toby Stephens who portrays the very magnetic Gilbert Markham is reason enough to watch this wonderful production.

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14 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Great romantic story with a hard-as-nails backbone

Author: LouE15 from United Kingdom
13 October 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I imagine Victorian literature slowly sinking into the mire of the increasingly distant past, pulled down by the weight of its under-skirts. Along comes television: at its best, it has a redemptive power, and with dramatisations like those the BBC produce so finely, Victorian literature gets a new stab at life. The religious themes, the moral overtones, may be increasingly ill at ease in a world no longer easily shocked, and acquainted with cohabitation, affairs and domestic violence. But those old, well-told stories have enduring power, and this is one's a hidden gem.

It's hard to gauge today just how forceful, feminist and extraordinary Ann Bronte's masterpiece, "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall", actually was. Emerging from the primeval slime of restrictive corsets – bodily, mental, societal – her heroine, Helen Huntingdon, escapes a miserable marriage, flees brutality and alcoholism, braves not only her abusive husband's fury, but society's pinched intolerance and malicious gossip, to wreak change in her life. She pays a price; but retains her self-respect; she falls in love along the way; she emerges battered but victorious, and strong. I just love watching women like these on screen.

The actors are superb – the best Brits have to offer. The love story is beautifully handled, with real passion and feeling by well-matched actors. Tara Fitzgerald inhabits every aspect of the complicated heroine, and as has been said here by other reviewers, no less sharply defined and beautiful a face could survive that petrifying hairstyle. Toby Stephens, striking sparks off her, contributes just the right combination of headstrong, handsome youth and passionate, yearning vulnerability. Rupert Graves (one of my favourite British actors ever) enjoys himself as the charismatic villain (so much so that you're almost with him at the end. No one's perfect). The supporting cast ably create a world into which you sink without feeling that coarse compromises have been made to modern tastes, and without having felt preached to. Another BBC classic, highly recommended: this is how romantic literature should be dramatised.

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14 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Scenery is a star as well

Author: jhsteel from London, England
18 August 2003

I agree with the praise heaped upon this production and, as a Bronte lover and reader, I confirm that the film conveys the bleakness, hope and groundbreaking feminist spirit of the original novel. I want to add that the locations used for filming are lovely - as a life-long devotee of bleak northern landscapes I was thrilled by the scenery chosen, which matched the moods of the characters so well. England isn't just pretty villages and visitors from abroad should take a look at Cumbria and Yorkshire as well!

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12 out of 15 people found the following review useful:

Brilliant, if sexed-up

Author: marspeach from Detroit, Michigan
15 July 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The only complaint I have about this adaptation is that it is sexed-up. Things that were only hinted at in the novel are shown on-screen for some weird reason. Did they think the audience would be too stupid to understand if they were not shown everything out-right? Other than that, this is very good-quality. All the actors do marvelous jobs bringing their characters to life. For the shallow women out there, it's worth watching at least because Toby Stephens as Gilbert is the sexiest thing ever. If I were Helen I would have conveniently forgotten I was still married the minute I laid eyes on him...

Sort of a spoiler- The ending scene is a funny reversal of what happened in the book.

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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Good enough if not amazing - until the botched finale

Author: Ross from United Kingdom
23 July 2007

*** This review may contain spoilers ***


I saw the original on TV sometime ago and remembered this production as less gripping than most Beeb costume drama. I rewatched on DVD this week and still have the same impression of it. It's a good story at first, but weakens when the heroine becomes oh so terribly brave and noble and returns to her utterly vile husband when he's ill and I got so totally irritated with her saintliness. I suppose this was the "right thing to do" when the story was written as well as contributing plenty of angst, and it was difficult for a woman to be independent of her husband as marriage made her no more than his possession, let alone to carry on scandalously with a lover as I expect a lot of the modern audience would have liked to see. But it's hard to take the santimoniousness nowadays and especially when this heroine had a strong, brave admirer ready to defend her against anyone and everyone. So re the story as in the film I'm equivocal. It's well done as per the novel, but somewhat irritating as per today's kind of life.

Steadfast hero Gilbert was certainly a saint to put up with his ladylove's variable and often cryptic behaviour and persistent self-denial and to be so consistently supportive. So I felt it a great shame that when Helen was at long last free to be with him, the script didn't allow him a bit more than about one minute to fall on each other for a quick hug before the titles came up. This was completely ridiculous when we'd been waiting all this time through all that dripping sentiment over the undeserving husband for a decent bit of dialogue and a good embrace between hero and heroine. Instead, the ending was as though the film makers had run out of time or finance or just couldn't be bothered. "Here you are - one minute, do what you can in that, then cut as the director wants to go home now....." I was left feeling totally dissasatisfied.

However, very high commendations to the acting of Toby Stephens a perfect and very handsome hero, and Rupert Graves a superbly nasty and self-pitying villain. Tara Fitzgerald was satisfactory within the confines of the script that forced her to be a depressing and rather sanctimonious victim so much of the time.

That said, I love these classic dramas and virtually all of them are a sight better than much of the "modern" drama on TV these days. So 7 stars because in spite of the irritations it's still a good watch.

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11 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Terrific acting, intense story

Author: Lori S from Garrett Park, MD
17 July 1999

This is the final novel from the lesser-known of the 3 Bronte sisters. Based partially upon the experiences of their brother Branwell, who abused liquor and opium in his adult life. It brought great shame and stress upon the family until Branwell's death at 31. This movie should be seen for anyone interested in the Brontes, but it's excellent viewing just for the acting & story - just how horrible alcoholism can be...

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9 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Loved it!!!

Author: l_tarver from United States
26 October 2008

I loved it so much that I bought the DVD and the novel at the same time. The chemistry between the actors (including little Arthur) is amazing and thrilling.

It could have used a bit more screen time for the yummy Frederick Lawrence (played by James Purefoy). And Gilbert Markham was amazingly "on it" from the very start of the movie.

The one who most thrilled me via surprising shock and awe and wonder was Rupert Graves as Arthur Huntingdon. I adore him in Forsyte Saga, and all else I've seen him in. But he outdoes himself here as Arthur. In my wildest dreams I could not have pictured him playing a demented psycho such as Arthur Huntingdon. But he does. And I love it. And I love him.

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