DVD Review: Persuasion (2007)

“I will not allow a woman’s nature to be more unconstant than a man’s”

This was actually my first interaction with Persuasion, the novel has languished on my bookshelf for years and I’ve never seen an adaptation before, so it was an interesting experience to take the story in for the first time with this ITV adaptation starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones. Simon Burke’s adaptation condenses Austen’s work right down to 90 minutes, which means a lot may well have been lost, but it also made a great introduction for a novice.

After an engagement with Captain Frederick Wentworth eight years ago which crumbled in the face of her family’s disapproval, Anne Elliot finds herself on the shelf at 27. When her father and sister’s lavish lifestyle requires a downsizing of their household, life seems set to change for good as their beloved Kellynch Hall has to be let out to tenants. But the world is a small place and the connections that emerge between her sister’s household where she goes to stay and the new tenants, the Crofts, ensure that the past is not so easily left behind.

And I have to say I absolutely loved it. Much is to do with Sally Hawkins, an actress who is seemingly always entirely watchable, bringing a perfect level of restrained yearning for love and life alongside her stoically ever-pragmatic nature. Adrian Shergold’s direction brings a fresh modernity to the story-telling too as he uses a lot of handheld camerawork and direct address to really pull the focus into the intimacy of the story. Rupert Penry-Jones as Wentworth – always looking supremely good in a pair of riding boots – excels at the clipped formality that masked his bruised ego, and theirs was a love story in which I was fully invested and I adored the way the story unfolded and who does the final chasing.

And they’re supported by a strong supporting cast: Amanda Hale is excellent as the dippy younger sister against the haughtiness of Julia Davis’ elder, Anthony Head’s preening father is painfully hilarious and it is always nice to see the likes of Peter Wight, Stella Gonet and Marion Bailey. Tobias Menzies brings an intriguing note of ambiguity to his cousin on the make, making me think he’s an actor I’d love to see take on a really meaty lead role in something. And Alice Krige’s Lady Russell, Anne’s confidante, is a lovely performance of warmth and candour.

So a great introduction to Persuasion for me, its muted mood and tenderness of story was most appealing to me, so I look forward to taking in the BBC version next and then finally tackling that book!

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