I love Jane Austen’s works, and Sense & Sensibility is one of my favorites. The plot revolves around Elinor and and Marianne, two of three daughters of Mr. Dashwood by his second wife. They have a younger sister, Margaret, and an older half-brother named John. When their father dies, the family estate passes to John and the Dashwood women are left impoverished. Fortunately, a distant relative offers to rent the women a cottage on his property.
The novel follows the Dashwood sisters to their new home, where they experience both romance and heartbreak. The contrast between the sisters’ characters is eventually resolved as they each find love and lasting happiness. This leads some to believe that the book’s title describes how Elinor and Marianne find a balance between sense and sensibility in life and love.
Emma Thompson adapted this in 1995 winning her the Academy for Best Adapted Screenplay and garnering 6 other nominations including Best Picture. It is a well loved film by all Jane Austen purists so you can imagine my surprise when the BBC announced a tv-movie adaptation. I suppose the only good thing about that news was that it was to be adapted by Andrew Davies, who also gave us the brilliant tv version of Pride & Prejudice also for the the BBC.
It’s in 3 parts and first graced our tv screens New Year’s Day. I couldn’t believe that the first reel showed a lot of skin and innuendo, I thought, ‘what is this, Sex in the Country’? I was very close to losing my interest, but I decided to give it a chance for it might grow in me, and grow it did. IMHO, I still believe that Thompson’s adaptation was a far superior adaptation, but for a 3-part series where a lot more time is allowed to tell a story, Davies’ attempt was a good enough effort, for one thing they got the age of the characters right, no offense to Miss Thompson who did a great Elinor even it was a stretch to act like an 18 year old.
I have to salute Hattie Morahan as she was very effective playing the more practical and sensible Elinor, and every emotion she felt and kept can be seen through those eyes. Her belated reaction to Edward’s declaration of love at the end was just as heartfelt and palpable minus the famous bleugh that Thompson did in the movie, although everytime I watch the film it never fails to elicit those bottled up emotions inside me. Morahan, I later found out, has done work for the RSC and had played Nina in Chekhov’s The Seagull, and I would love to see a live performance from her on stage in the future.
Charity Wakefield did just as well but nowhere near Winslet’s perfect portrayal as the passionate and free-spirited Marianne. In the 3rd episode, as they were on their way back to Barton Cottage after recovering from her illness and finally noticing Colonel Brandon, she said after full realisation and conviction that, ‘it’s not what we say or feel that makes us what we are, but it’s what we do, or fail to do’. I couldn’t have said it any better.
The gentlemen in the cast, Dominic Cooper as Willoughby, although less dashing and handsome as Greg Wise in the film, gave Willoughby some soul after confessing to Elinor of the wrongness of his ways and why he suffers. Colonel Brandon was played by a sympathetic David Morrissey, who may not be as great as THE Alan Rickman, did quite a good job but was very well lacking in oommpphh. I thought that Dan Stevens playing Edward Ferrars was portrayed so much better than the way Hugh Grant did it in the film. And when he finally declares his love to Elinor, I swear I felt my knees shake.
One of the flaws I suppose was the lack of a very animated Mrs Jennings and Sir John Middleton. I also felt that Margaret, the youngest of the Dashwood sisters wasnt given much to play with. These characters were given so much teeth in the movie, it was a shame they were overlooked in this adaptation.
All in all it was a good effort altogether, and an adaptation that can truly stand on its own.
If you missed it, Episodes 2 & 3 is available for free on the internet by the BBC iPlayer service via this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/(The internet version is available in the UK only).
Sense & Sensibility: 3.5/5