North and South
Starring Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage
Directed by Brian Percival
Music: Martin Phipps
In December I reread Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. In January I watched (for the first time) the 1975 adaption of North and South (starring Patrick Stewart). This month I rewatched the 2004 North and South.
Overall, I really love and adore this movie. Is it faithful to the book? Not really. Is it faithful to the spirit/essence of Gaskell's characters? No, not really. But does it tell a whole story and stand on its own? YES, yes, yes. The characters though perhaps miles away from being like what Gaskell actually wrote are so well written--so well cast--that it WORKS. Here's where this adaptation shines. It is all about RELATIONSHIPS and (viewer) INVESTMENT and EMOTIONS/FEELS.
Though John Thornton and Margaret Hale are not Elizabeth 2.0 and Darcy 2.0 in Gaskell's original novel, in the movie they sort of are. And it's a formula that works well.
I could point out all the hundreds of ways this adaptation differs from the novel. (The first happening withing a minute or two of the movie's opening. Mrs. Hale (Margaret's mother) does NOT attend Edith's wedding. Mrs. Hale and her sister live in two different social worlds, have different incomes, and different wardrobes. Mrs. Hale is too embarrassed and too proud to either ask to borrow a dress or to appear in a super-shabby dress that is decades out of style as well. Perhaps Margaret is unaware of this reasoning, she's not always intuitive--rarely intuitive--but certainly Gaskell emphasizes this.) To me the biggest difference is the two John Thorntons.
The question isn't is this a good/great/decent adaptation...the question is this a good/great/awesome/wonderful movie. And while it fails at the first, it exceedingly succeeds at the second. It is a WONDERFUL movie that doesn't need to rely on a book.
The characters, the actors, the costumes, the MUSIC, the romance....all is perfectly perfect especially if you divorce it almost completely from Gaskell's novel.
© 2021 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews