Outstanding Sep 8, 2013
This is a wonderfully entertaining adaptation of a period novel from a very skillful author. The characters are living, breathing people with emotional depth. Why this author or especially this work is not more known, I do not understand. To me, this is every bit as interesting as "Pride and Prejudice" and superior to some other popular works. However, Ms. Gaskell may be known for her "Cranford" and "North and South." But, for me, this is her best.
One of the central characters may now be my favorite male character in fiction, the doctor. I found it gentle, yet vital with its variety and cross section of rural English village life. However, they do have their aristocratic family frequently in residence to add "tone." Much spice is provided by a central character's second wife, bringing along a coming-of-age daughter to the mix. Francesca Annis and Keeley Hawes are first rate in these portrayals. Both add "adventure" and complication to the rather well settled household. Whether or not the father's own daughter is better served by this "oversight" for her life is open for conjecture. However, there are other, but not too many, story lines in other households, which intersect one another. This is not especially a "woman's" film as there are some very strong and definitive men in this interwoven story. Think of the surprising interest many a man has had in the 1995 film adaptation of "P&P" as well as the recent "Downton Abbey." They will like this one too.
Overall, this is a rich and well told tale encompassing wit and humor, joys and sorrows and characters who will become very real and some beloved. There are no all black or all white persons, but real people who have their mix of virtues and foibles, more true to life in general. I consider many of these characters to be in the classic vein, eligible for life reference as to their type as many of Dickens and Austen's characters have become.
If you have any interest in period, family, villagey type stories, you may find this one of much enjoyment and, for me, one to definitely own for future viewing. It is top rate for production values, proven actors, casting and portrayals. Highly recommend.