From a relatively young age, have been quite a fan of period dramas/adaptations. Due to plot points and themes being easier to understand and things that didn't quite catch my attention when younger they are even more interesting now and love them even more through young adult eyes. There are disappointments out there, as adaptations and on their own terms, but there are many ones worth recommending or are a must watch, both for television and film.
Regardless of whether it comes off or not (mostly it has), anybody who does try to adapt the work of Charles Dickens deserves brownie points for the attempt alone. Dickens is not easy to adapt, that being an understatement, and the bigger and richer the book the more complicated it gets to adapt it. 'Our Mutual Friend', like 'Bleak House' (which is even bigger), is one of those examples. And fortunately this 1976 adaptation is an example of Dickens being adapted very well.
This final part is a wonderful way to end and does such a fine adaptation justice, the meatiness of characterisation and storytelling still remaining.
One of the things that is so good is its atmosphere, done in a way that is very evocative. The costumes and sets are beautifully produced and evocative, not too clean and the camera work does not show its age. The music fits the atmosphere and moods of each scene, and if a scene needs an intimacy it's either used sparingly or not used at all.
As an adaptation 'Our Mutual Friend' (1976) is more than solid, faithful without being too wordy, but even more importantly it works every bit as well, and even more so, on its own. All handled with intricacy and dignity.
The dialogue is rich in flavour with intelligent handling of subtle comedy and heart-tugging pathos, and it is Dickensian all over. There is some slowness but considering the length of the book and how much story and characters are involved the more measured approach was necessary.
Excellent performances also help, and once again one gets them. It is not hard to go wrong with Leo McKern enjoying himself thoroughly. As does Warren Clarke, both chilling and heart-tugging, two adjectives that sound oxymoronic together but work. John McEnery's restraint and quiet authority resonates beautifully, one doesn't mind about any reservations of him being too old which proved to be an insignificant issue watching his acting throughout the adaptation. Lesley Dunlop is an appealing Lizzie, she doesn't play her as too meek like Dickens heroines can fall into the trap of being when portrayed.
Nicholas Jones is touching in his particularly conflicted role. The ever lovely Jane Seymour is a deliciously unpleasant Bella. Great support too from David Troughton and Ronald Lacey.
Altogether, wonderful. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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