Unfinished works might excite a flurry of promise in fans of a popular author. But then the question, does that mean that screenwriters should attempt to better it by putting finishing touches on it? They test this theory in the incomplete manuscript by Charles Dickens.
The relationship John Jasper (Matthew Rhys) has with his orphaned nephew is a curious one. Long holding the position of choir director, he appears one way to parishioners, but in reality he hides behind addiction. His one secret habit lies in his frequent trips to opium dens; his second is craving the attentions of a young schoolgirl named Rosa Bud (Tamzin Merchant). He harbors feelings for the pretty-faced Rosa, but much to his chagrin, they intend the girl for his young nephew Edwin (Freddie Fox). Edwin is a young man with grand ambitions, determined to see the world. His betrothal to Rosa leaves Jasper enraged – and plotting revenge. Even though Edwin will inherit a large fortune upon his marriage, Jasper is not about to give up wanting Rosa. Into this already sordid triangle walks a set of twin siblings.
Newly arrived on British soil from India, the siblings arrive for a proper British education. Helena (Amber Rose Revah) gets on famously with Rosa, who soon confides in her new schoolmate of the terror Jasper makes her feel. Meanwhile Helena’s brother, Neville (Sacha Dhawan) and Edwin often clash – Neville despises how Edwin treats Rosa, and then Edwin disappears. Unable to see her friend caught between a man she must take as husband and a man who mistreats her, Helena takes her concerns to the pastor. This sets into motion a chain reaction that will forever change the lives of these people.
Long before seeing this, I read that this is Dickens darkest to date. Respectfully, I disagree. The two-part film is sometimes… disturbing but I think those who frequently watch Dickens will not find this any more so than the others to come from this author’s brilliant imagination. I’d even argue that some of the prior BBC adaptations are much, much more sinister. Like most stories Mr. Dickens penned, each has their share of “dark” shadows hanging over its characters and in that, also us but what I appreciate about his unique style beyond any philosophical meanings is his ability to write a happy ending. This ending feels as if it’s not fully set up but then that, ultimately isn’t something to ruin this production.‘THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD’ (2011) #FWarchives Click To Tweet
To say the least, this film is interesting. There is something consuming about the story but to be honest, it is a twisted one. Mostly taking place outdoors makes the filming a“lighter” than usual balancing out the darker potential. As the villainous character, Jasper is one of the “best.” He is intensely unlikable and we love to detest him because Rhys makes it so easy to do so. His lurking in the shadows and possessive or obsessive nature is deplorable; whether he is under the influence of an opium daze or in control of his faculties, he is still… creepy! Then there is Edwin. For once, we don’t even hold a genuine desire to cheer for Dickens young hero. Once his ending rolls around we do get a better impression of him – almost as if the rejection makes him see things differently and he grows up in the best sense. The entire cast brings something to the movie, and it’s fun to see Tamzin in something again as well as the supporting cast consisting of Alun Armstrong and Julia McKenzie.
Despite audiences’ skepticism, I think the writer did a bang up job of completing this story. It felt true to the character of Dickens and seemed an appropriate tribute to him. Most of the screen time is either full of crazy antics or strange behavior but there are rare moments when laughter is the only appropriate response. It feels like a cliché because other reviewers felt the same way but I cannot help that but agree. I think part one has much more vigor and a lot more going for it. Part two is equally entertaining and retains the characters but I think there’s too many flaws with some subplots. Additionally, I find it interesting to see the end of Rosa’s story considering she questions “true love” more than once. That feels like one string that isn’t neat – but then, I can “accept” it.
Despite the few flaws that I would like to be different, the writing weaves a tight, fabulous mystery; one that might even leave you with your mouth agape. If you like Dickens, then this is a wonderful addition to your library. It may not be exactly how Dickens would complete things but if it’s one thing, they do approach this in typical Dickens fashion. Bravo to the filmmakers on a job well done.
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Content equates to a soft PG13-rating. There are a dozen flashes of a man being strangled [non-graphic] and there is a suicide in which we see the person lying in their own pool of blood; a man is punched. There are some minor implications as regards Jasper’s thoughts of Rosa; he once tears her dress as he grips her arm possessively. One or two scenes take place in an opium den.