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)…
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.
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!
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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