Tuesday’s Overlooked Film: Persuasion (1995)

Made in 1995, a year which also gave us Austen adaptations of Sense and Sensibility (Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet) and the A&E production of Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle), Persuasion is a little lesser known, but equally quality addition to the canon. Directed by Roger Michell (Notting Hill), the cast is lead by Ciaran Hinds as Captain Frederick Wentworth and Amanda Root as Anne Elliot.

The film is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s final completed novel. I have read in some sources that Austen was quite ill at the time of the writing and was rushing to finish the novel.; this may account for the book’s breathless pace.  Although I have not read all of Ms. Austen’s novels, this is by far the least ‘whimsical’ of those that I have read. In saying that, this film captures the darker spirit of its source material in a very realistic way.

Persuasion is set after the Napoleonic Wars. The Elliot household is in state of great transition. Since the death of the family matriarch, Mr. Elliot (Corin Redgrave) has lived a life of frivolity and spent foolishly. This has left the family heavily in debt and they now have to ‘retrench’ – leaving the family estate, Kellynch Hall for a more economic lifestyle. They are left to renting their home to the Admiral and Mrs. Croft (Fiona Shaw), who have returned from the Navy and are looking to settle in the country.

It is revealed that there is a connection between the two families – Mrs. Croft’s brother, Frederick (Hinds) formed an attachment to Ms. Anne Elliot (Root), who at the age of 27, is now considered a spinster. The Crofts’ arrival to Kellynch Hall has stirred all the old feelings of the attachment made and broken 8 years ago. Family friend, Lady Russell (Susan Fleetwood), was a key player in keeping the lovers apart. Her reasoning was that Wentworth was a young man of no wealth or consequence; now, the roles are reversed, as Wentworth has made a fortune in the Wars.

After her father and eldest sister leave Kellynch for Bath, Anne is left behind to prepare the home for the new tenants; she stays with younger sister Mary as the Crofts settle in. This brings her immediately into the circle of Wentworth.

At this point in the story, their relationship is reestablished at first on uncertain grounds, but eventually they find a common ground. In fact, one wonders if there is still something there…

Well that is the set-up; I will leave it for you watch and find out. I hate giving away the plot 😀

When I started to draft this post, I was thinking about stating that this was the least ‘romantic’ of the novels/adaptations I had read or watched. I immediately changed that to ‘whimsical’ because while this film is most assuredly lacking in the light moments of humor of many of Austen’s earlier works, I found Persuasion very romantic; in fact, that a love lost nearly a decade ago could be rekindled is a very romantic notion indeed. I was really rooting for the two of them.

The one bone I had to pick with the film is the casting of the central players. While I thought the actors brought what was needed to the roles, I felt they were a bit ‘too seasoned’ for the roles. But I like this film so much that I will forgive the film this minor flaw.