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4.6 out of 5 stars188
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 22 January 2004
It's almost impossible not to compare this with the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (which I also love). This is slightly harder work, I think -- it's not so immediately compelling, less of a confection and more of a meal. The nature of the storytelling is different, even if the scripts were in the same capable hands (Andrew Davies's) and the production values similar (though I suspect they had less money to throw at this).
Wives and Daughters is altogether darker, deeper, and more human than the frothy P&P. Here, we have racial and religious prejudice and its consequences, more than one death, and a far more cruel and direct portrayal of ruinous gossip than ever threatened the Bennet girls. Also, one of the most powerfully romantic moments I've ever seen dramatised: the offering of flowers to heroine Molly in the final episode, and the superb, heart-wrenching give-and-take dialogue that goes with it.
It's hard to fault the casting or acting. Justine Waddell is perfect and perfectly (if unconventionally) beautiful in the central role of Molly. The "mother" character has been compared to Austen's Mrs Bennet, but Francesca Annis as Molly's stepmother Hyacinth brought far more depth to her role. If you were irritated by Alison Steadman's shrieking Mrs Bennet, you might just end up actually wanting to strangle the colder, more devious Hyacinth :-)
To sum up, I can enjoy Pride and Prejudice over and over again without feeling sated, but it doesn't move me to tears the way this does.
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on 11 August 2007
After watching it may times over, this has become one of my favorite screen adaptations of classical novels. I never thought any movie could come close to Pride and Prejudice in that sense, but this one truly does. Elizabeth Gaskell (novelist) has no black and white characters, just like in George Eliot novels one learns to understand the misfortunes and good sides of the less sympathetic people(like the step mother and step daughter at the start) and one feels with all characters, which in my opinion gives more depth to a story. In this one the deep affection between the Heroine and her father is very beautifully described, as well as the growing love between the Heroine and her neighbor the Squires son. Equally much we get involved in the aging Squires worries and hopes for his two sons to make it in this world, beautifully acted by Michael Gambon. His performance is stunning and brings you to tears. No wonder he won a BAFTA for this one!

This movie is one of the best to describe both awakening love, peoples honest intentions and care for loved ones in the 19th century rural England. One just loves the whole story and the people in it very much!

Very highly recommended to everyone fond of the complex human nature, passion, relationships, good dialog and good acting. I wish there would be more adaptations like this, were all pieces fall into place equally well: very well directed, high quality production with acclaimed cast, costumes, scenery and footage. Don't miss it.
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on 7 September 2005
This is the second Elizabeth Gaskell adaptation I watched. Although it is not as stunning and breathtakingly dramatic as North & South - of course the topics handled are very different -, it is a masterpiece of its own right with wonderful cast& crew.
Jusitne Waddel (Molly) and Bill Patterson (dr Gibson)play daughter and father very convincingly: you can feel their down-to-earth, but strong and heart-warming affection for each other. Nothing superficial or pretentious. Francesca Annis (Clare Gibson) and Keely Hawes (her daughter, Cynthia) are perfectly suited as mother and daughter: you can grasp the physical and characteristic similarities. One of the most annoying and at the same time most delightful scenes is when Mr Gibson gives a piece of her mind to Cynthia for putting Molly's good reputation at stake and both Cynthia and Mrs Gibson are crying, feeling they've been sadly abused & misunderstood while Molly - the only person having ground to feel injured - is standing there patiently, not saying a word. Their carelessness and selfishness is featured wonderfully in that scene.
Justine Waddel was a fresh and lively Molly. Keely Hawes was a wondeful Cynthia: you couldn't help liking and disliking her at the same time. Iain Glen's acting was also very good: he was good-looking, but repulsive at the same time. Francesca Annis and Michael Gambon were both superb.
Supporting actors were very well chosen: I especially liked the beautiful Rosamund Pike as aristocratic, independent Lady Harriet.
BBC has done its best again.
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on 26 February 2004
I'm a real lover of series like this so i may be prejudiced. However i must say that if you want to see a movie based on one of the classics it's best to see a tv adaptation. Series like this are not confined to 2 hours so they are , most of the time, much more faithfull to the book. The players in this serie are great. But i must say that Francesca Annis really shines.Bravo for cast AND crew !
Sit down and make an evening of it !
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on 7 November 2007
This has to be one of my favourite BBC adaptations, rating alongside Pride and Prejudice. Andrew Davies again has done an excellent job, he can be forgiven a bit for his Northanger Abbey, which considering the length of the piece is understandable. I know other reviewers think this isn't quite as good, but I think Wives and Daughters is a bit of a slow burner. It isn't instantly as enticing as Pride but you will grow to love it just as much. I won't bore you with plot details as it has been done before, just buy this, if, like me you love costume drama. The performances are all excellent and unlike other reviewers I loved Justine as Molly. She isn't exactly like the Molly in the book but then that wouldn't be very appealing on scene. The excellent actress (can't remember her name)who played the main character in the recent Bleak House adaptation was also nothing like the Esther in the novel. She has made the character more engaging for me. She has done other costume drama (Great Expectations)before this and I loved her in those as well. I think it is a real shame that she hasn't had the success that the other young cast members(who are brilliant too) like Keeley Hawes, Rosamund Pike, Antony Howell and Tom Hollander have had since this production. I loved the ending of the programme as well, again a modern twist. I'm looking forward to Cranford which along with many of the cast from Wives and Daughter also has the excellent Judi Dench in it. I'm so pleased that the BBC has made Elizabeth Gaskell more well known with these series, there is also North and South which has the very yummy Richard Armitage in it. Now all we need is some good Wilkie Collins productions and I'd be very happy.
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VINE VOICEon 12 October 2006
When originally broadcast in 1999, the BBC's Wives and Daughters lost the ratings and promo battle to ITV's much inferior Oliver Twist. I hope that those who chose Oliver Twist will give this less starry and more domestic drama a chance on DVD. The unfinished novel was Elizabeth Gaskell's best work and director Nicholas Renton brings it to life in this warm (but not fuzzy) and subtle drama. Like the BBC's 1995 adaptation of Persuasion, one of the main strengths of Wives and Daughters lies in the acting--Bill Paterson and Michael Gambon, the opposing patriarchs allied by friendship yet separated by ambition are wonderful and Francesca Annis delivers just the right amount of edge and pathos to her role as mother to Cynthia and stepmother to Molly. I have to admit that I found Justine Waddell's casting as Molly Gibson a bit difficult--there's a stiffness about her performance that occasionally jars with the other performances, but somehow, whether through the crisp direction or brilliant cinematography, Waddell eventually won me over. Without sounding too silly, there is so much warmth in this idyllic adaptation that it stays just on the right side of drama without becoming melodrama; and in this it matches the novel perfectly. Wives and Daughters is one of the best of the BBC's literary adaptations of the last 20 years or so (just behind Persuasion and Middlemarch for me) and far superior to the more recent adapation of Gaskell's North and South.
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on 9 March 2011
Yet another BBC success, a solid adaptation with a few brilliant performances (Michael Gambon is indeed amazing, I felt his loss painfully, as are the insufferable and manipulative stepmother and the warm father) but I was not convinced by the younger characters which was a let down, I did not feel their pain or their connections/chemistry, hence the 3 stars. The story otherwise would deserve more praise and attention, and a good 4 stars. It touches subjects a lot more diversified than the typical period drama with complicated family dynamics, plenty of human faults resulting in disappointments and remorse without being either a villain or a saint as well as social and racial considerations, all this on top of the love story plot.
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HALL OF FAMEon 27 December 2001
When I read the comparisons between Wives and Daughters and various Jane Austen adaptations I immediately prepared for the worst as such comparisons generally have to be taken with a pinch of salt. However, I was pleasantly surprised. I wouldn't dream of comparing the story with any of Jane Austen's work, but for lovers of period dramas it's a cracking good story and a wonderful adaptation. I was most impressed with the fact that this story has avoided many of the period drama cliches that tend to ruin so many stories. It's told in a rather modest and straightforward way that greatly appeals to me and I can quite happily let a dull and grey afternoon go by while I tuck up in front of the telly and watch Wives and Daughters.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 22 January 2007
Unlike Pseudopanax, I liked the BBC's 'North and South' a lot, but otherwise I agree with her/his reviewof this adaptation. It is an outstanding DVD, beautifully cast - Michael Gambon steals the screen every time he appears, Penelope Wilton is excellent, Francesca Annis and Bill Paterson are very good indeed, Barbara Flynn and her 'other half' (I have forgotten the actress's name - sorry!) ideal as the Cranford-like down-to-earth, kindly maiden ladies. As for Justine Waddell, I think she's very good too. She is rather stiff and certainly very direct, but in facial expression and body language she seems to me to convey the tension and angst of Molly's situation pretty well. Everything else - setting, costumes, cinematography - are up to the BBC's highest standards, and the plot and characerisation that Gaskell provided are compelling - well realised here, too. A fine achievement all round, and very enjoyable.
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This is a superlative period piece and a brilliant adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's 1865 novel of the same name. This BBC mini-series is a superb costume drama with stellar performances by the entire cast. Set in rural England, the film centers on Molly Gibson, the seventeen year old daughter of a country doctor. Richly drawn portraits of Molly's neighbors and friends quickly emerge and weave an absorbing tapestry of nineteenth century life.
Molly and her father, a widower for most of Molly's life, have an exceptionally close and loving relationship. Their relationship is put to the test when he decides to marry a widow and former governess, Hyacinth, who is a pretentious, self-absorbed, ridiculous woman. She has a grown daughter named Cynthia, a beautiful young woman, close to Molly in age, but as different from Molly as night and day. Cynthia is best described as a Marilyn Monroe of the Victorian age. Cynthia and Molly become fast friends, while Molly barely tolerates her nigh intolerable step-mother.
The series really revolves around Molly's relationships with all the characters in the production and her handling of the various everyday situations in which she finds herself. Richly drawn, memorable characters, as well as intrigues, secrets, and romance, make this a highly absorbing drama and one that those who love period pieces and lush, well acted costume dramas will enjoy. It is simply a masterpiece.
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