Film Review: Persuasion (2007)
Persuasion is a made-for-TV film adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel of the same name. And I’ll say it right now: the prior adaptation of Persuasion from 1995, starring Amanda Root and Ciarán Hinds, is one of my all-time favorite movies. So, when I first watched this version many moons ago, I wasn’t totally sold on it. In my initial estimation, it didn’t quite measure up to the utter delightfulness of its predecessor.
Some years on and more than a few viewings later, I may just have to adjust that initial impression. ITV’s adaptation, starring Sally Hawkins and Rupert Penry-Jones, has much to recommend it and much in which to delight. It’s certainly grown on, ahem, persuaded this Persuasion fan.
The film starts with Anne Elliot (Sally Hawkins) determinedly striding about the estate, pen and paper in hand, overseeing the packing and cleaning and general hub-bub of activity that is going on. The family seat, Kellynch Hall, is to be let, in order to lessen expenses and curtail spending of Anne’s extravagant, utterly snobbish father Sir Walter (Anthony Head) and elder sister Elizabeth (Julia Davis).
Anne is the practical, grounded, levelheaded, longsuffering, dutiful daughter, attempting continually to buffer and contain her father and sisters’ aristocratic airs and snobberies and silliness. She’s 27, unmarried, quiet, the confidante of one and all. She dependably problem-solves for everyone else, but a problem soon presents itself that she can’t quite seem to solve. A problem involving herself.
The new tenants of Kellynch Hall, the Crofts, are sister and brother-in-law to her former fiancé, Captain Frederick Wentworth (Rupert Penry-Jones). She broke off the engagement, eight years prior, at the prodding and advice of her mother substitute and friend, Lady Russell (Alice Krige). Lady Russell found the match imprudent. So, Anne was persuaded to go against the wishes of her heart, to be sensible, and has regretted the decision ever since.
While her older sister and father head to Bath, Anne is sent to the nearby Musgroves. There her hypochondriac younger sister is always complaining and ailing and wanting an ear to bend. Longsuffering Anne complies, taking care of nephews and hearing all about Mary’s complaints with her in-laws, the Musgroves, and the Musgroves’ complaints about Mary. And her own worst fears materialize when Captain Wentworth – as dreaded – returns to Kellynch Hall for the first time in eight years to visit his sister. Suddenly, Anne must see the man she rejected, the man whose love for her has turned to hate, whom she longs for still.
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The vivacious Musgrove daughters are duly impressed by the dashing naval captain, while Anne is dismissed and ignored by her spurned former lover. He lavishes attention on the Musgrove girls, as Anne’s inner turmoil mounts. Can Captain Wentworth forgive her and come to love her again? Can Anne forgive herself and proclaim her love despite what family and society may say?
Persuaded to Enjoy This Persuasion
I don’t want to give it all away, but there are miscommunications aplenty, a solid rogue with (disingenuous) romantic intentions in the form of the distant cousin and heir to Kellynch Hall, Mr. Elliot (Tobias Menzies), and one of the best love letters even penned in literature. And might I just say that Rupert Penry-Jones sports some fantastic hair as Captain Wentworth. I don’t know how authentic and true to the period it may be, but it’s a great cut.
A pretty mug, if ever there was one, Penry-Jones makes a fine captain. Although I did miss a wee bit more weathering on that fine face of his. You know, a man who’s been sailing the high seas and getting into watery scrapes should probably be a bit more rugged. And here I’m thinking of Ciarán Hinds. But there’s a sensitivity to him that begins to shine through, which is quite endearing.
All sorts of things are condensed and mixed around and dropped – such is the nature of adaptations. Anne spends a lot of time writing in her diary, complete with voiceovers, staring at us – the viewers – with knowing looks. Sally Hawkins is an actress who can pull off such wordless close-ups. Heck, she was just heralded with all sorts of nominations and awards for playing a mute cleaning lady in The Shape of Water (2017). So, she’s very good at emoting sans verbiage. She turns into something of a marathon runner at the end, which had me shaking with laughter the first time I saw this film. But now, it’s grown on me. A metaphor made physically manifest of a woman choosing her future, whatever others may say. A sort of unshackling of societal constraints. It’s totally non-canonical but enjoyable nonetheless.
Yes, this version of Persuasion has grown on me. I’ve been persuaded. Sure, I’ve got some issues. But I do love this story so much, that I’m willing to just overlook them and go with the flow. And just enjoy some rather fine locks on a too-handsome Captain Wentworth.
Content Note: Rated PG. Nothing to come after.
Where to Watch: DVD.
What are your thoughts on this adaptation of Persuasion? Let me know in the comments!
Photo Credit: ITV.
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