Monday, 19 January 2009

Wives and Daughters

I've had the DVDs of the BBC's Wives and Daughters lying around the house for ages and late on Saturday night I finally made myself watch episode 1. I enjoyed it very much and on Sunday I immersed myself in the remaining three episodes.

You know, that show was really very good. Much better than I had expected it to be. Maybe not just up to the standards of my beloved Jane Eyre 2006 (staring Ruth Wilson), but very excellent nonetheless.

It's had to believe that it was out in 1999! Good lord, 1999 used to sound like the future and now it's 10 years ago.

W&D is based on Elizabeth Gaskell's final unfinished novel. It principally concerns Molly Gibson, a doctor's daughter who is less than pleased when her widowed father brings home a new wife. With her new "mother" comes a stepsister in the form of Cynthia, who has a few skeletons clattering in the metaphorical closet.

Molly is played by Justine Waddell. I have to confess that Justine somehow managed to pass me by, despite being Queen of the Costume Drama a few years ago. In addition to W&D she was in Tess and Great Expectations to name just two.

Fantastic cast in this one. Bill Patterson as Molly's father, Francesca Annis as the awful yet fascinating new mother, Michael Gambon as the Squire.

God, Gambon is excellent. He has the best line in the whole thing:

"Madam - your wife - and I didn't hit it off the only time I ever saw her. I'm not saying she was very silly, but one of us was very silly and it wasn't me."

Tom Hollander is in it as the Squire's son with a secret. Keeley Hawes is Cynthia. Rosamund Pike turns up (pre James Bond) to play Lady Harriet. It's a small role next to the others but vitally important to the story. She single-handedly rescues Molly from the gossip of the misinformed townsfolk.

Justine handles the required adversity well, such as when she's playing the piano while across the room Cynthia is unknowingly stealing the man Molly secretly loves.

I'm going to try to see some more of Justine Waddell's work. next is Tess I think. If I can stand it so soon after the most recent version. Brace myself...