Top positive review
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couldn't be better - absolutely wonderful
on 9 January 2007
The BBC decided to screen this adaptation initially in 30-minute episodes, two a week, like a soap. Unexpectedly this worked quite well, but more because of the excellence of the production than because of their quirky manner of showing it. Seen on DVD, when you can watch as much as you wish, it is even more powerful. The cast is astonishingly good - many famous names (Warren Clarke, Pauline Collins, Phil Davis, Matthew Kelly, Alistair McGowan, Anne Reid, Ian Richardson, Liza Tarbuck, Johnny Vegas, Timothy West) taking roles which they inhabit as if they were made for them. But the central roles, of the unfortunate litigants in the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce, the corrupt lawyer Tulkinghorn (Charles Dance, menacingly lizardy), kindly John Jarndyce (Denis Lawson) and above all Gillian Anderson as the chilly and tragic Lady Dedlock and the heroine, Anna Maxwell Martin as Esther Summerson (described in Dickens' character list in the novel as 'a prudent and wise woman and a self-denying friend') are even better. The sets are totally convincing, Dickens's huge compass of characters and events is covered entirely satisfactorily, the complicted plot emerges clearly and there are moments of great pathos and genuine dignity. But above all is is absolutely riveting (and perhaps that is why the BBC's cliff-hanging original approach was not so daft after all). Anyway, I cannot recommend this too highly. It is really wonderful.
P.S. (25th. December 2009) I see Carey Mulligan, who played one of the wards of court in this production, has been nominated for a Golden Globe for her work in the recent film 'An Education' - in which she is indeed excellent.