Our Mutual Friend (1998)

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Director: Julian Farino

Writer: Charles Dickens (novel), Sandy Welch (screenplay)

Cast: Keeley Hawes, Steven Mackintosh, Anna Friel, Paul McGann, Timothy Spall, David Morrissey, Anthony Calf

Synopsis: One of Charles Dickens' darkest yet also most romantic novels gets a lavish treatment in this BBC mini-series of Our Mutual Friend. The heir to a great fortune made from the garbage business is drowned--and his death affects everyone. His father's manager, Noddy Boffin (Peter Vaughan), gets the money, to the alarm of snooty society. The man who pulled the heir's body out of the Thames is accused of his murder; his daughter, Lizzie Hexam (Keeley Hawes), finds herself pursued by both an idle gentleman (Paul McGann) and an obsessed, violent schoolteacher (David Morrissey).

The heir's intended bride, Bella Wilfer (Anna Friel), gets socially adopted by the Boffins, where she succumbs to the lure of money above all and spurns the interest of a mysterious stranger (Steven Mackintosh). The plot creeps up and down London society like a tenacious plant, twining around a pair of golddiggers who mistakenly married each other and a heartsick bone merchant named Mr. Venus (Timothy Spall). This excellent adaptation moves with aggressive speed, drawing the viewer into the grimy worlds of the riverside and the dust heaps and the glittering, gossiping parties of the rich. Our Mutual Friend balances one of Dickens' most entrancing love stories with his creepiest gothic turns--it's a rich stew of characters both earnest and vile, made with sumptuous production values and movie-quality cinematography.


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