8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 29 June 2014
It has been over 30 years since the last dramatisation of Daphne du Maurier's Jamaica Inn with Jane Seymour and Trevor Eve. This mini-series (3 episodes) stars Jessica Brown-Findlay and Matthew McNulty as Mary Yellan and Jem Merlyn. The plot in this production has been somewhat changed from the book and many events are 'sexed-up' (for want of a better term), also the motivations of some characters are rather different both from the book and the previous dramatisations (most notably Mary's aunt, Patience, is a much more complex character here, but even Joss Merlyn is treated with more compassion than in other versions).
There have been many complaints of the actors' use of regional speech and their 'mumbling'. It is true that some characters are difficult to follow, especially Sean Harris, but there are subtitles, so if you don't mind turning them on it is absolutely fine to watch. There are some extras also (interviews with the crew).
I really loved it. Jamaica Inn is one of my favourite novels and I think this series does it justice. Both the plot and the characters are reinterpreted for a modern viewer, also, the writers have gone far beyond the romantic storyline (which is great but dominates the 1983 adaptation much more than it does the book) and this is well done.
Recommended to all costume drama fans!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 16 July 2014
I enjoyed this hugely, Sound qualtiy was excellent, and the Gothic atmosphere spellbinding. I also liked the Cornish accents, which I found really good and fairly authentic being Cornish myself. All in all superb and I would thoroughly recommend this. Somewhat heavy and deep production, one needs to relax in a good armchair with decent tech to enjoy correctly.
I don't understand some of the critics at all, we thought it was one of the best productions seen for ages.
31 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on 23 April 2014
I had high hopes for this production, as it's one of my favourite books. And after thirty or so years since the last adaptation (a melodrama lacking the gravitas of the book, in my view), this is a novel overdue for a screen interpretation which finally does it justice. Regrettably, although this production got some things right, overall it fell somewhat short of my admittedly high expectations. A shame, because Du Maurier's gothic evocation of wild, brooding landscape in which unfolds a mounting sinister tension, culminating in a violent and macabre climax, is so descriptively rich that this story is a dream for any writer, director and producer.
So let's start with what was right: firstly, a strong cast- Jessica Findlay Brown has that vital strength needed to play such a powerful, captivating heroine as Mary Yelland; Matthew McNulty with his gipsy looks was well chosen for the the gritty, alluring rogue Jem Merlyn, Mary's love interest. Their chemistry was probably the best thing about this adaptation. Ben Daniels shows his considerable skill as an actor in his portrayal of the shadowy facets of Francis Davy, the strangely powerful vicar of Alternun. Shirley Henderson's performance as the vicar's devout and intense sister (not in the book) was also very good.
The sets were well done, too. The inn was exactly as I had imagined, a desolate, dismal place by day, the eerie lair of smugglers by the flicker of candlelight and the cold light of the moon. The vicarage at Alternun, tasteful,warm and comfortable, only giving the slightest of hints at the strangeness of its incumbent.
The soundtrack is also good- melancholy and haunting, emphasising the loneliness of Mary's situation with nobody to depend on but herself.
So, where did it go wrong? Generally speaking, it's too long. It's not a long book, but it's gripping from start to finish. I kept waiting to be thrilled, horrified, on the edge of my seat, but it never happened. It's clear that there are parts of the production where the plot (which, annoyingly, has been changed somewhat in several places) falters and loses momentum, even becoming rather boring in places. It's so important that, with themes of bleakness, loneliness and betrayal, the overall mood doesn't become dreary. But the first episode was particularly so. Even Jessica Findlay Brown occasionally lacks the monkey-like spark and wit that so becomes Mary in the book. And McNulty, while physically ideal as Jem, is occasionally missing something of Jem's louche, insolent charm.
But I couldn't quite reconcile myself to the casting of Sean Harris as Joss Merlyn. He's certainly a good actor, but physically, this depiction of Joss Merlyn is more like a cross between Frank from Shameless and Phil Mitchell, as opposed to a brutish hulk of a man whose wild dark hair and skin lend him a beast-like quality. The production is the lesser for it- Joss Merlyn IS Jamaica Inn. His physical presence is so important to the story- to highlight the contrast between his bodily strength and his mental weakness. One of the great tensions in the book is that Mary is all too aware that what physically repulses her in one brother, attracts her in another, but this is a theme sadly lacking from this version. And his presence extends into the characterisation of Mary's long-suffering aunt, Patience. Oddly, she is depicted in this production as a shrewd, resigned accomplice to Joss's nocturnal wrongdoings- a far cry from the weak, timid and spirit-broken waif in the book. This too was a mistake, for it is through the pathetic sight of Patience, mentally and bodily broken by Joss's mistreatment of her, that we see the bullying but desperate monster that her husband is, and herself a foil to his own inner weakness.
There are other unnecessary changes in characterisation throughout- Jem is portrayed as loyal to his brother when in the book he stays well out of the smuggling and even swears to kill Joss for hurting Mary. Harry the pedlar's is also a noticeably different character- he is a loyal friend to Joss in this production, instead of the loathsome lecherous backstabber in the book.
While it was haunting, crucially, the production could have done more to convey the terror, savagery and darkness of Mary's abduction and witnessing of the wrecking party at work in the early hours of Christmas morning. In the book she is clearly a hair's breadth from being tortured, raped or even murdered by Merlyn's motley crew, and only her relationship to Joss spares her from this fate- there is nothing of this here. The final twist in the tale, where the real evil of the story is revealed, however, was better handled and quite compelling.
This is not a bad production; in parts it is very good. It is buoyed up by a strong cast, but because of the lack of momentum, spark and gothic feel, as well as the plot and character changes, it should have been better.
23 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 7 May 2014
I think there has been confusion over the alleged poor sound quality. For some years the film-school orthodoxy has dictated that everything must be communicated purely visually, as if doing penance to betraying the valued of the great age of silent movies. Dialogue must be kept to an absolute minimum. As regards this production, somebody decided that the regional speech of southwest England should be conveyed by instructing the actors to talk with their mouths closed, pronouncing the 'r'-sound with a mild snarl, to ensure uniformity among the cast.
You heard the result. If it had been merely a matter of low sound-levels, we would have resorted to turning up the sound.
Bring back voice-training for actors. What the hell is wrong with telling a story with words,as well as pictures?