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4.1 out of 5 stars
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 1 June 2017
This is a good and faithful depiction of the book. Tara Fitzgerald is beyond perfect as the mysteriously cool, unfriendly 'widow' who hides out in the dilapidated Wildfell Hall to save her young son from the corrupting influence of her dissolute husband. She makes her own living and relies on no-one, nor does she want anyone or anything - only to be left alone to raise her son, but the jealous gossips soon put her in a untenable position. The book caused great controversy at the time of its publication because Anne Bronte dared to write about the unspeakable and was vilified for it, but the subject still rings true today and many people find themselves in similar situations but without the fairy-tale ending. The older Bronte's have had countless films and series made from their books and this one, of one of the youngest sister's books, is a rarity, beautifully made, and well-worth watching.
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on 26 February 2017
I'm sorry, but like some other reviewers I have not followed this sad story with great interest - not mad with disappointment but to tell the truth it was not easy to reach the end of it. Strange for a BBC production.
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on 4 November 2016
Awful! so disappointing, love the BBC making of Pride and Prejudice and was hoping for something of the same quality, alas not!
Love the book and really hoped this would be faithful as possible for the same screen, most of it is made up and hardly follows the book at all.
As it was so different from the book I hardly think it should have the same name!
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good viewing
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on 15 March 2015
Sound transaction. Everything went well
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on 21 June 2017
So much better than I expected it to be!
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While not wholly faithful to Anne Bronte's novel of the same name, this BBC adaptation has much to commend it. Excellent cinematography, as well as strong performances by the entire cast, makes this a must see production for all lovers of period pieces.
An intriguing widow of mystery, Helen Graham (Tara Fitzgerald), moves into a crumbling residence known as Wildfell Hall. There, she sets up house with her very young son. Plain spoken, independent, and seeming to lack charm, she rebuffs the initial, friendly overtures of the local townsfolk and manages to alienate most of them. Gilbert Markham (Toby Stephens), a young and handsome yeoman farmer, is not put off by her manner, however, and being smitten by her sets off in hot pursuit, hoping to gain her affections. Soon, however, the townsfolk begin gossiping about her supposed assignations with a wealthy, local gentleman, Mr. Lawrence (James Purefoy), the owner of Wildfell Hall. There comes a point where even the steadfast Mr. Markham wavers in his belief in her. It is then that Mrs. Graham tells him the true nature of her relationship with Mr. Lawrence and reveals her dark past.
Rupert Graves steals the show as Arthur Huntingdon, the charming rake who captures and seduces Helen's young, romantic heart. Once married to her, however, he reveals himself to be a brutish, dissolute, and depraved philanderer, who causes her to flee their home with their young son. The role of Huntingdon is, undoubtedly, the juiciest. The film uses the narrative contrivance of flashbacks in order to explain the events that led Helen to take the extraordinary measures that she did. It tells the viewer of the sad story that brought Helen and her son to this sorry pass. Ultimately, Helen takes the high road, when an event occurs that causes her past to collide with her present. In that decision, however, lies the key to her future.
Toby Stephens is wonderful as the yeoman farmer, whose tender heart is captured by the beautiful Helen. Tara Fitsgerald, while indeed beautiful, plays the role of Helen a tad too harshly, which, while serving to alenate the townsfolk, serves also to alienate the viewer somewhat. Even though the flashbacks serve to explain her present manner, and the viewer sees her in happier days, Helen is still not as simpatico a character as she could or should be. Still, this is a handsome, though somewhat dark and somber production that those who love period pieces will appreciate and enjoy.
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In the 1800s, an abused woman didn't have a lot of options. She couldn't get a divorce, all her property and her children belonged to her husband, and society turned a blind eye unless she actually got murdered.

And this haunting idea is at the heart of "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall," a miniseries that brings to life Anne Bronte's classic novel. Pastoral beauty and simple village life are stained by the flashbacks to grotesque physical and mental abuse, and the story rests on an excellent trio of performances by Toby Stephens, Tara Fitzgerald and Rupert Graves.

A mysterious woman and her young son move into the remote Wildfell Hall, without telling anyone of their arrival. Though the villagers are initially curious and welcoming, they eventually become hostile to Mrs. Helen Graham (Fitzgerald) because she doesn't act like a proper Victorian lady -- she's prickly, blunt, reclusive and opinionated, and seems incredibly protective of her young son Arthur. Furthermore, they suspect that she's having an affair with her landlord Mr. Lawrence (James Purefoy).

Yeoman farmer Gilbert Markham (Stephens) is immediately attracted to Helen, and manages to get under her armor enough to strike up an odd little friendship with her. But his ex-girlfriend Eliza spreads noxious rumors about Helen and Mr. Lawrence, and Gilbert becomes jealous.

After he knocks Lawrence off his horse, an angered Helen gives him her diaries -- which reveal the horrifying, abusive marriage that she escaped from. As a naive young girl, she married the dashing rake Arthur Huntingdon (Graves), but soon learned that he was an abusive drunk who wanted her just for sex, and eventually loathed her for disapproving of his ways. Though Helen has escaped him, he's determined to get her and his son back...

Anne Bronte's "A Tenant of Wildfell Hall" was an incredibly controversial novel in its time, and the miniseries more than does it justice. In fact, at times it ramps up the horror of Helen's grotesque marriage, such as when Arthur nearly rapes her while she is pregnant, or when she is forced to listen to her husband having sex with his longtime mistress.

It's a stark contrast to the pastoral, weathered prettiness of the village; while Grassdale Manor is full of flickering firelight, rich colours and luxurious cloth, the countryside is full of mossy stones, grey skies and rolling grassy hills. Despite all the gossip, the countryside is a cleansing, purifying force.

The entire first episode is devoted to stoking the mystery of who Helen is and why she's here, without giving any answers -- although there are plenty of hints (the spinning bird, her reaction to a Punch and Judy show). Once she gives her diaries to Gilbert, the backstory unfolds like a poisonous flower blooming, even as Gilbert goes to Grassdale to make a last impassioned plea to Helen.

The cast in this miniseries is simply superb -- Stephens as a clear-eyed young farmer whose honesty and kindness attract Helen despite her bad experiences, and Fitzgerald as a fierce young woman who is determined to protect her son. They have a subtle, powerful chemistry in every scene they're in together, and you end up wanting nothing more than for them to end up together.

On the other hand, Graves plays a monstrously sadistic man who draws in a young girl with his charm, then sprays her with hatred when she doesn't magically change to become just as depraved as he. Perhaps he's most hatable in two scenes -- when he teaches his young son to kill innocent animals, and when he grins sadistically at Gilbert after Gilbert fails to convince Helen to leave with him.

"The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" is a magnificent literary adaptation -- the acting is magnificent, the direction excellent, and the story a powerful one that still resonates today.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 8 October 2011
This 3 part BBC adaptation of the Anne Bronte novel runs 160 minutes
total.

Nicely shot, with a lot of surprisingly modern camera techniques for a
Bronte novel. Usually this works well, although occasionally it gets
self conscious (a couple too many 360 shots).

The acting is solid, with Tara Fitzgerald an edgy but still empathetic
heroine. But Rupert Graves' switch from flawless seducer to "worst man
in the world" type villain is a bit over the top, although that may be
the material, or approach more than performance. Indeed, at times I
could feel Graves (a very good actor) trying to maintain some humanity
under the almost Gothic heartlessness.

The music is interesting and effectively anachronistic as well, often
sounding something the Cocteau Twins, but as with the cinematography
after a while it starts to get both repetitive and too self consciously
avant-garde for a story mostly told in a straightforward Masterpiece
Theater fashion.

Lastly, the tidy ending bothered me a bit. The film did a good enough
job capturing the complex difficulties of life, that I found myself
wish for something that felt more honestly open ended.

All that said, I still enjoyed the story, the scenery, and being
transported into another time and place as only good storytelling can
do. A quite good adaptation, I just wished it was great, and for 30
minutes or so, thought it might be.
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on 29 December 2014
To fully appreciate this film(and the book for that matter) one has to take into consideration the laws concerning married women during the Victorian Era until the passing of the Married Women's Property Act of 1870.
The average, modern woman would find it hard to put herself mentally in the tormented circumstances of an unhappily married lady of this time. Today divorce would be the immediate recourse. Back then, a woman could not flee her abusive or unfaithful husband even if she was an heiress, because she could not take the money she brought into the marriage, back out with her. At the moment of her marriage all her possessions, and whatever money she could earn on her own, as well as the children she may bear in the marriage, became the irrevocable property of her husband. A divorce would divest her of everything - that is, if her husband saw fit to even grant her one.
Marriage was the one thing a genteel woman was brought up to strive for, and yet it was the most mentally oppressive, financially exploitive and emotionally debilitating situation imaginable for a woman once subjected to a man - with no means for escape should he turn out to be dishonourable.
Fleeing (=withholding of yourself as your husband's personal property), especially with the children (=kidnapping), were crimes punishable by law. Earning your own money and keeping it was 'theft' of what was legally considered your husband's due.
How do you get a modern audience to feel just how torturous such a situation was - without boring them with legalities especially when all they signed on for is to watch a TV-film?
Well the script has added some scenes which are more explicit than the book but not gratuitous and get the point across. However, for those looking for Jane Austen-type fare - this will be a disappointment. This is not a fluffy romance set in lavish sitting rooms.
Here is where I think the heart of the matter lies and why some reviews are unflattering.
Ann Bronte worked as a governess and observed these social horrors first hand and wrote about what she observed. Her written voice was raw and truthful and so very different from the prose of her two sisters. She was expressing a judgement - not just trying to entertain.
However, today, her writings are viewed by many much in the same light as those of her sisters - purely as entertainment. To expect the romantic aura of `Jane Eyre' from `The Tennant of Wildfell Hall' is to do her the greatest injustice. Anne was offering a social statement on the heartrending situation endured by so many as Anne Bronte herself witnessed it.
Anne was a radical with strong views of her own and a strong literary voice to go with it. Interestingly, her elder sister Charlotte, not being herself a great one for rocking the boat and maybe a bit jealous of her little sister's roar, was apprehensive of the work being re-published after Anne's death, considering it too radical for the time. Much as I love Charlotte, she was quite wrong, and her conduct helped obscure this novel. Thankfully she did not prevail forever and Anne's voice has been allowed to echo through the decades unabridged as she justly deserves.
This is a strong adaptation and I think does the work justice. It is worth watching - It is a good start - but I would not call it the ultimate adaptation - therefore: 4 stars. But to date I know of no other so, hopefully, like `Jane Eyre' it will attract and challenge many worthy professionals still, to produce their own version.
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