Middlemarch (1994)

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Director: Anthony Page

Writer: George Eliot (novel), Andrew Davies (screenplay)

Cast: Juliet Aubrey, Rufus Sewell, Patrick Malahide, Douglas Hodge, Simon Chandler, Robert Hardy, Peter Jeffrey, Jonathan Firth

Synopsis: This BBC adaptation of George Eliot's Middlemarch is so remarkable that after viewing it disaffected English Literature students may find themselves revisiting the once-dreaded novel with pleasurable anticipation. Over the course of six hours, we are immersed in the lives of Dorothea Brooke, Mr Ladislaw, Dr Lydgate and, by the end, you'll be wanting even more. Set in the fictional town of Middlemarch in the early 19th century, the stories of the townsfolk are woven seamlessly together, with strands of political fervour and social commentary subtly incorporated.

Dorothea (Juliet Aubrey) wants desperately to make something of her life; however, as a woman she is forbidden the study of Greek and Latin and no one takes her notions of societal improvement seriously. She chooses to marry the elderly Rev. Casaubon (Patrick Malahide), a scholarly man whom she can aid in his work. Meanwhile, new to Middlemarch is the handsome Dr Lydgate (Douglas Hodge), who has grand notions for running a free hospital and finding a cure for cholera. His plans are sidetracked, however, when the beautiful but materialistic Rosie Vincy (Trevyn McDowell) sets her sights on him.

Other sub-plots run throughout, including Rev. Casaubon's dashing but disapproved-of cousin Will Ladislaw (Rufus Sewell), who has his eye on Dorothea; the scandals of banker Mr Bulstrode (Peter Jeffrey); and the prodigal son Fred Vincy (Jonathan Firth), who urgently wants the hand of Mary but can't find the money or an honest career to provide for her. Each of the actors fully embodies his or her role, and none of the performances are standout because they are all wonderful. The locations are dark and fitting to the mood, and the costumes and set decorations are period perfect. For anyone who enjoys the BBC's adaptations of great novels or for those just looking for a great story to sink their teeth into, Middlemarch will not disappoint.

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