‘Sense & Sensibility’ Masterpiece Review: A Perfect Adaptation. A review of the Sense & Sensibility 2008 ITV adaptation with Dan Stevens. Text © Rissi JC

‘Sense & Sensibility’ Masterpiece Review: A Perfect Adaptation

April 3, 2020 12 Comments

Several years ago, when BBC/ITV produced a handful of Austen adaptations, Sense and Sensibility (2008) made Austen fans excited. Although I absolutely love it after an initial run-though, each viewing since endears it as one of the greatest miniseries – ever.

Sense and Sensibility (2008) ITV/BBC TV Review

Mourning the death of a beloved father and husband, the Dashwood family find themselves in difficult circumstances by simply being female. This means their father’s fortune and estate passes to their elder stepbrother. Eldest Elinor (Hattie Morahan) is the practical one. Although unsettled at the idea of starting over, she looks at their situation realistically, aware they have little to live on. All as her mother (Janet McTeer) hopes to reside somewhere beyond their means. Upon the arrival of stepbrother, John and his wife Fanny whom none of the Dashwood ladies like, they are forced to live under insufferable circumstances as Fanny plays mistress of Norland. The one redeeming happiness comes when Fanny’s eldest brother, Edward (Dan Stevens) visits the estate.  

Edward delights his hosts with his quiet charm so different than his snobby sister. Youngest daughter Margaret (Lucy Boynton) finds him a dashing male figure to look up to while Marianne (Charity Wakefield), the more passionate romantic, finds Edward dull by comparison. But any romantic notions Edward and Elinor may feel are soon thwarted by Fanny. This forces Mrs. Dashwood to accept a cottage owned by her jovial cousin, Sir John Middleton (Mark Williams). Settling into their new seaside haven, the women are soon in turmoil, all of which ties them to the lives of two me. The roguish, handsome Willoughby (Dominic Cooper) and the older, wiser Colonel Brandon (David Morrisey)…

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Tears and sorrow, happiness and laughter follow these women as they navigate life in regency London amidst scandals (and scoundrels!). Because the award-winning 1995 version was my introduction to Sense & Sensibility, it will always be “special,” but this is the favorable version. It’s breathtaking. Anytime, Andrew Davies is involved, we know the screenplay will be solid. His writing is always complementary to Austen’s material, and this adaptation is not the exception.

This miniseries has been criticized and praised in equal parts. Speaking strictly from a cinematic perspective, it’s gorgeous. The scenery is all natural seaside beauty. Setting the story on the seashore might seem insignificant but it lends itself to some lovely, romantic, poetic moods. The filming is artistic, and each scene sets the stage for whatever mood is appropriate. Likely, the greatest source of debate is the cast. Most everyone argues that Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, and Kate Winslet are the best, and are therefore untouchable. Honestly, I think everyone in this new cast takes the crown.

There is no question that Edward and Elinor’s relationship is greatly improved. The meet-cute, for example is full of magnetism and charm whereas Marianne and Brandon’s initial meeting is most memorable in the nineties version. Even the proposal scene in this is played much better by Hattie and Dan.

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The cast is also closer in age to their respective character’s; Hattie, Charity and Dan are superior (especially Dan) though David has a tough road to master since Alan Rickman is the epitome of Colonel Brandon. In the capable hands of Janet and Lucy, Mary and Margaret Dashwood now have purpose; Janet’s Mary grieves but she proves a capable woman unlike Gemma Jones (she plays far too weepy a mother). Lucy Boynton sparkles as “Meg”; and the camera just loves her on-screen presence. The script is full of witty lines like when Meg threatens to “poison” Fanny should she come to live with them.

We learn more about everyone, which allows the story to show insignificant moments. For example, we see Willoughby beg for forgiveness, which is a kind of final “reckoning” between he and Marianne. The costumes aren’t always to usual standards, and sometimes appear unattractive or ill-fitting the actor. Still, this negative isn’t enough to sway me.

Any Austen addict will be swept up in this. There is differences between the feature film, which may make some of you wary of how it may affect the “classic,” but it’s far too memorable to miss. Even though a re-made story, the capable acting and filmmakers make this seem a fresh take on a classic. Accomplishing this is a rare feat, but they do it in style.

What are your thoughts about Sense and Sensibility (2008)? Has it grown on you or do you find it to be mainly “rubbish”? Share any thoughts below!

(Disclosure: this post does contain affiliate links; if you buy anything through these links, I may receive a small percentage of the sale at no extra cost to you. Read the disclosure page for details. If you have purchased anything through our links, thank you. We’re grateful.)

You can buy Sense and Sensibility (2008) digitally on Amazon Video or purchase on DVD

‘Sense & Sensibility’ Masterpiece Review: A Lovely Adaptation. A review of the Sense & Sensibility 2008 ITV adaptation with Dan Stevens. #PeriodDrama #Romance Click To Tweet
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‘Sense & Sensibility’ Masterpiece Review: A Perfect Adaptation. A review of the Sense & Sensibility 2008 ITV adaptation with Dan Stevens. Text © Rissi JC

Content: Apart from the one (opening credit) scene, this is all-age appropriate. There is a suggestive love scene; a man caresses a young girl, whispers in her ear and unties her laces. Sense and Sensibility (2008) is TV-14 or TV-PG

Photos: ITV / Masterpiece, BBC

Note: this review was published in the archives five or more years earlier. Since moving to WordPress, 90% of the reviews, lists and articles need re-formats and/or other updates. Updated edits and changes to fit current formats have been made; it has also been updated with new photos, and republished.

Originally published on November 19, 2011

About Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

Rissi JC

amateur photog. #bookblogger. downton abbey. inspys. internet-photo-shy. writer. the aspiration is to someday write professionally. a girl can dream, right?

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12 Comments

  • Charity November 19, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    I love this version, particularly its Elinor and Edward — but Kate Winslet and Alan Rickman rule my heart as Marianne and Brandon; the couple in the miniseries cannot even come close to their perfection, so for their half of the story, I like the Hollywood film better — for Edward and Elinor, I like the miniseries. =)

  • Rissi November 20, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    I love nearly everything about this adaptation…

    Edward and Elinor are "leaps and bounds" better than Hugh G. and Emma T. in the 1995 version. It took me a while to warm up to David as the Col., but I think he is marvelous in the role now (minus the moment when Alan Rickman first spots Marriage – that cannot be duplicated!). I do see what you mean though and to some extent completely agree with you.

    Now, I just want to watch this one again – am I always saying that!? =D

  • Ruth November 21, 2011 at 3:55 pm

    I love this miniseries, but I think I agree with Charity — if I'm really setting out to pick favorites, I love this version's Elinor and Edward, but prefer the cinematic version's Marianne and Brandon.

  • Rissi November 24, 2011 at 2:13 am

    Overall this version is my most favorite, Ruth. There is something magnificent about it and the fact that Davies is attached makes it all the more worthwhile.

    Most people feel the 1995 version can never be "replaced," I however, would beg to differ with them. ;D

  • Jeanine (Wayfaring Girl) December 1, 2011 at 3:49 am

    I'm going to agree with you Rissi, this new mini-series version is wonderful. The relationships were more fleshed out (course they had more time to invest in it) and while I liked the 90's version the chemistry between Emma T and Hugh just seemed off…they just didn't seem to be a plausible couple…The new couple—perfect. And you know, while I liked Alan Rickman as the Col, and Kate W, I have to say I like the newest couple better. I thought Alan a bit stiff in the old version. Not a lot of chemistry between the two while I thought it was just right with this version. David is a cutie and I just love the duel scene they added. A man defending my honor with a sword––yes please! :))

    Jeanine

  • Rissi December 1, 2011 at 4:04 am

    Your thoughts are mine exactly, Jeanine.

    Hattie and Dan are wonderful together as Elinor and Edward. I love that there is so much more time for development in this one – it makes it all the better. I did like Alan Rickman though… but overall, this miniseries is my most favorite of the two – and the earlier version from BBC is just… well, terrible all-around. =)

    I like that scene of David (Col. Brandon) engaging in a sword fight, too. It's fun without being too campy – and you are so right. ;D

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