BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's unfinished novel. The decision of long-time widower Mr Gibson (Bill Paterson) to remarry has several repercussions for his daughter, Molly (Justine Waddell), who resents the arrival of her stepmother (Francesca Annis). However, Molly also acquires a stepsister, Cynthia (Keeley Hawes), with whom she soon forms a close bond. Their relationship is later put to the test, however, when they both set their sights on the same man.
Given the great success of Pride and Prejudice (1995) and that Jane Austen wrote so little, the BBC and screenwriter Andrew Davies looked elsewhere for material of comparable quality. Wives and Daughters by Mrs (Elizabeth) Gaskell is set around 1860 and tells the story of 17-year-old Molly (Justine Waddell), beloved daughter of the widowed Dr Gibson (Bill Paterson). A mercenary stepmother (Francesca Annis) and inconstant stepsister (Keeley Hawes) bring refined havoc to genteel country life, with complications ensuing when both young women fall in love with the youngest son of Squire Hamley (Michael Gambon). This is a wonderfully observed insight into Victorian village life, encompassing comedy, romance and high emotion in a four-episode, five-hour adaptation. Making the most of Davies' subtle and detailed screenplay, there are great, flamboyant performances by Michael Gambon and Francesca Annis. Keeley Hawes, Barbara Flynn and Ian Glen are excellent too, but the revelation is the beguiling central performance by Justine Waddell, also the star of Great Expectations (1999). The photography and production design are gorgeous, as is John Keane's music. Wives and Daughters is as compelling and entertaining as any Jane Austen, and possibly Andrew Davies' best literary adaptation to-date. --Gary S. Dalkin
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.