Period drama season is, and will forever and always be, an anticipated season. The joy of discovering what period drama networks like BBC or PBS (Masterpiece Theatre) commission is a happy day indeed. One of their newest acquisitions is a remake of Little Women. A classic story that’s timeless, but also reinvented with a modern slant.
Though everyone likely knows the story, here’s a brief introduction.
Little Women (2018) BBC Review
Set in the 1800s, the March family consists of four daughters, and their mother – Marmee (Emily Watson), whose compassion sends her out to help the poor. Then there’s the girl’s father (Dylan Baker) who is currently serving in the army as a Chaplin during the Civil War.
Second eldest daughter Jo (Maya Hawke) is stubborn and opinionated; eldest Meg (Willow) is sweet and kind, but also wishful of things her family cannot afford; youngest Amy (Kathryn Newton) is a spoiled dreamer. Then there is Beth (Anne Elyes). Unlike her sisters, Beth doesn’t have dreams. Instead she’s the quiet, shy one everyone loves, but doesn’t always understand. Together with their handsome neighbor Teddy “Laurie” Lawrence (Jonah Haur-King), the girls grow up in a tumultuous time that brings many changes.
“Sometimes we simply have to do the bravest thing.” – Little Women
Louisa May Alcott’s timeless story is another piece of classic literature I have never read. However, it is a story I treasure each time it’s relived through (my favorite) the 1994 film adaptation. Sadly, it’s a story I’ve also not revisited lately, which is perhaps why my excitement for this 3-part miniseries sent the eagerness sky high. Unfortunately, I do feel like this adaptation misses a little something. I think I read somewhere, a viewer said this adaptation doesn’t quite live up to expectations, and I agree. Beautiful though it is, there is something lacking about the overall production. Don’t mistake me, as any BBC period drama is (or 99% of them), this production is lovely. It simply lacks something I cannot quite pin down.
Perhaps most surprising to me is this feeling considering this adaptation is in the capable hands of Heidi Thomas (Call the Midwife), who is, unarguably one of Britain’s talented scripters. When discovering her name at the helm of this production, I had even greater expectations. But there are moments of dialogue that sound “rough,” and not the good kind. The script doesn’t hone in on any one thing. The bond between the sisters doesn’t seem as strong as it could. In consideration of this, one might assume a romance is given priority. It isn’t. Still, the moments that do work shine and outnumber the awkward moments.
If I had to say one thing that really feels “off” about this series, it’s the pace. Considering its three hours, there could have been time to expand on elements. Instead important things are skimmed and cheated out of the possible expansion they might have been given. (One of the things I thought would be explored with greater details is Jo’s time in New York.) Lest I give the wrong impression, don’t misunderstand, BBC’s newest adaptation is wonderful. Unlike some period dramas, this one has an organic feel that comes across as genuine. Whether it’s in the scenery or the make-up free faces of the protagonists, the rawness of the story is elegant in its own way. Plus the ending is complete and darling.
The feature film does seem to have a better handle on how to tell the story (all in two hours). This is true of the complex emotions between so many of the characters, including the sisterly bonds. Nonetheless this miniseries is still beautiful. It has the fortune of being produced by gold star production companies and a talented cast, plus there are some pretty romantic scenes between the “ship” that almost was.
Lovers of classic literature, old-fashioned romance and BBC productions won’t want to miss this new adaptation. There’s an authenticity to its storytelling I admire and wish more productions would adopt. ♥