Sorry for the delay on this review! Remember when I said my DVD had scenes cut? Well, I rewatched it and it turns out, I was wrong! I somehow missed a couple parts. Must not have been paying close attention. Still, the new special edition I got was worth it for the special features- deleted scenes, commentaries, and more. But I feel like I put off this review for nothing! Oh well.
This version is four hours long (four episodes in the UK, two in the US) I first watched this miniseries as it aired in the UK, by means I will not admit to on this website. Not being satisfied with the other versions I’d seen, I was REALLY looking forward to it. I remember I was very disappointed after the first episode. Jane’s childhood was way too rushed. Rochester was way too good-looking. It was too sexed up…etc, etc. But after putting my initial qualms aside, I grew to really love this adaptation. What it does well, it does really well. The acting was excellent all around. Jane and Rochester had absolutely amazing chemistry. It is largely faithful to the book, but it does change things as well. In a big change from most of the other adaptations, there is absolutely no voice-over! The dialogue was faithful to the spirit of the book, mostly, but a lot of it was tweaked and modernized. It added in some stuff about twins and soulmates being able to have a spiritual connection which allowed them to hear each other from far away, I guess to give some background to the Jane/Rochester connection at the end. That was interesting but I didn’t feel it was really that necessary.
This version does have its flaws, though. My main gripe with it remains the rushed beginning. Young Jane’s time at Gateshead and Lowood, especially Lowood, is over in the blink of an eye. The production team clearly wanted to just get it over with and get Jane to Thornfield ASAP. I feel that that was a mistake because Jane’s childhood is very important! It is what makes her the person she becomes, after all! The Jane and Rochester chemistry was also taken too far in the eyes of many, including myself, in one very controversial scene- namely, the scene where Rochester tries to stop Jane from leaving Thornfield. In this version, it takes place on a bed! Rochester attempts briefly to seduce Jane in order to get her to stay. It doesn’t work, obviously, but I was not a fan of this change. I thought it was grossly out of character for the book Jane, who deliberately would not allow Rochester to touch her at that point. I thought that was taking things too far!
Georgie Henley as Young Jane Eyre
I don’t know if this is just me, but she does not look anything like how I’ve always pictured Jane as a child. The pudgy cheeks, while admittedly adorable, make her look too robust and happy and well-fed to be young Jane to me. But I was pleased with her actual performance (despite there not being enough of it! Jane was an adult 14 minutes in!). The opening scene was her imagining herself in the desert while reading a book about world travels or something. I almost wondered if I was watching the wrong show at first, but thankfully it only lasted a few seconds, haha.
Tara Fitzgerald as Mrs. Reed
She was a great Mrs. Reed in her limited role. There is an added scene where the Reeds were having a family portrait done and the painter asks Jane to join in, but they say she is not part of the family. So sad! Unfortunately Gateshead was too rushed. The beginning scene followed the book, with John finding her in the window and hitting her with the book, and her fighting back. John is actually older and more physically imposing in this at least. Jane gets locked in the Red Room, and we have brief bits of Bessie and Abbot. But Jane’s telling off her aunt was too short and matter of fact. I just wanted more! I did really like her deathbed scene with Jane later on, however. This is also the only version that includes an older Georgiana and Eliza with their full personalities!
Richard McCabe as Mr. Brocklehurst
He could have been good, but he was barely in it. Just one visit to Gateshead and one visit to Lowood where he makes Jane stand on a stool. Miss Temple and Miss Scatcherd were omitted completely. Charity Wakefield played a teacher who did have one line and seemed kind, but I don’t know if she was originally supposed to play Miss Temple and the role was scrapped for time, or what! Lowood was given such short shrift in this!
Hester Odgers as Helen Burns
Her character suffered the most. Note that she has curly red hair. There is a deleted scene in which she gets her hair cut for this, like many other versions have done. But it wasn’t even included. She has only one real scene with Jane before her death. Her character’s piety is cut, of course, and she instead gives practical advice to Jane to work hard in order to advertise and get out of Lowood one day. Then one day Jane sees that her bed is empty and finds Helen on her deathbed. I think there was a typhus outbreak but it wasn’t clear to me that Helen had consumption. I guess that’s not the important part, but Helen and her death are so crucial to Jane’s character development that I was disappointed at how rushed they were here. She only had one line to Jane- telling her to get into bed. No talk of meeting each other in heaven or anything. I was not pleased.
Ruth Wilson as Jane Eyre
I thought she was a little too tall and mature looking (not old by any means, just not little and 18) but she was kind of plain enough and she really blew me away with her acting. I loved how she portrayed all of Jane’s various emotions and passions under her reserved, quiet exterior and occasionally letting it out. Watching this the first time I was struck by how much she looked like Charlotte Bronte. Then listening to the commentary I learned that the Charlotte Bronte look was actually intentional. She was a good match to this version’s Rochester as well. For anyone who does not buy into the Jane/Rochester romance, they should watch this version!
Toby Stephens as Edward Rochester
I love Toby Stephens, but as you can obviously tell from the picture, he is way too good-looking to play Rochester. He is not supposed to be handsome! Unfortunately, the producers wanted him BECAUSE of his good looks! In the commentary, they mention that Jane actually does think he is handsome but does not want to tell him so. Um, what? No!! They do not fall for each other based on their looks…grrr, grumble grumble. Okay, rant is over. I actually really enjoyed his performance. He and Jane were an excellent match, the best chemistry out of any to play the pair (Timothy Dalton and Zelah Clarke are a close second). He shows all sides to Rochester’s personality- the brooding dark side, as well as the teasing, humorous, light side. On a more shallow note, I couldn’t help but notice that although they died his hair, you could still tell his sideburns and eyebrows were ginger. It was hilarious! For me, at least.
Lorraine Ashbourne as Mrs. Fairfax
I thought she was quite kind and jolly as Mrs. Fairfax. For some reason, she tells Jane right away in her response to the advertisement that the governess position is for Adele Varens, ward of Mr. Rochester, so there is no confusion as to her being the lady of the house. Jane’s arrival at Thornfield is coupled with dark and scary music, making Thornfield look ominous.
Cosima Littlewood as Adele Varens
She wasn’t bad with what she was given, but I wasn’t happy with Adele’s character in this. She was played up as being very vain and silly, which works in the book and whatever because she is supposed to be very young. But here she looks closer to 12-14 and it just makes it look ridiculous when she’s putting on her little performances and stuff.
Christina Cole as Blanche Ingram
I guess it was a trend to make Blanche blonde! Christina Cole seems to get stereotyped into the Rich Bitch role a lot, doesn’t she? She was a good Blanche, though. You could tell she was quite a haughty snob, yet she tried to act outwardly proper. Her mother, played by Francesca Annis, however, was truly evil!
Claudia Coulter as Bertha Rochester
They did something a little different with Bertha’s character here. Rather than making her totally savage-looking, she still looked outwardly beautiful here. She calls Jane what I believe is “whore” in Spanish and flies into a rage once she sees her in the wedding gown, however. Her sexuality is also big part of her character/insanity.
Diana and Mary Rivers
Their names are not listed on IMDB, sadly. This review is already so late that I’m not going to bother to figure it out. They did keep the Rivers storyline intact, but with one major change- Jane has amnesia. She passes out while wandering on the moors and is found and taken home by St. John, like the 1997 version. When she wakes up, she does not remember who she is. This is a big change from the book (and most other versions) where she deliberately hides her identity. I’m still not quite sure what the purpose of this change was. She does get her memories back after a while, though, but does not divulge them.
Andrew Buchan as St. John Rivers
They never make St. John good-looking enough! This guy is decent, I guess, but nowhere near a Greek god. Sigh. His character is pretty much intact from the book, at least. For some reason I can’t fathom, though, he is going to Africa for his mission instead of India. I just don’t understand what making that change accomplishes???
Georgia King as Rosamund Oliver
Her part is small, but I included her because it’s so rare that we get to see Rosamund! So that made me happy.
The ending is the Rochesters a few years after marriage, with two little kiddies in tow, with all of their friends/family/servants (including Grace Poole!) getting their portrait painted. It ties into the beginning scene where Jane was kept out of the Reed family portrait. While it was slightly cheesy with how many people were included, it was a cute kind of cheesy. St. John was painted into the border, because he was probably dead by that point or just in Africa.
I am definitely fond of this version, even though it is not perfect. It’s probably my favorite!
My Rating: 9/10