Our Mutual Friend (TV Mini-Series 1998– ) Poster

(1998– )

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An immense, rich feast
Raph-46 January 1999
"Our Mutual Friend," a sumptuous six-hour adaption of Charles Dickens' last novel, easily establishes itself among the very best of the long-form British adaptions. Visually stunning, with an opulent budget, no other series more accurately captures the feeling of Dickens' England, from the waterfront sets to the huge ensemble cast of oddballs, scum, slime, and heroes.

From the Pre-Raphaelite beauty of Keeley Hawes to the impressively evil and immensely filthy Kenneth Cranham, or the peculiar Timothy Spall, the entire production finds its success in superb casting, with every character fascinating, complex, and human. Anna Friel's heroine is attractively modern without being "inauthentic," which could be applied to the entire cast -- managing to be convincingly Victorian without being inaccessible or unnatural.

The cinematography and score are all topnotch, and the occasional montage scene employing handheld cameras in the vein of "A Hard Day's Night" works, surprisingly. The writer and director juggle the multitude of plotlines with ease, and the narrative is always brisk and sure.

Even when the denouement grows a little silly, with all turning out blissfully right in the end, "Our Mutual Friend" never loses the complete captivation of its audience, thanks to almost too many superb performances directed under a very sure hand and a very smart screenwriter.

With a wealth of characters to fall in love with, "Our Mutual Friend" surely ranks alongside "Martin Chuzzlewit", "Pride and Prejudice", and "Middlemarch" as one of the finest classic mini-series produced.
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Rich in Dickensian atmosphere
wisewebwoman21 October 2007
"Our Mutual Friend," is another well done BBC adaptation of a classic Charles Dickens story, set in the complex London of 1860, beset with the poor, overseen by the unseemly rich with a class structure at it's most delineated.

All of these stories deserve the mini-treatment, to allow us into the sprawl of the period and soak up its language and atmosphere and this is right up there with the best of them. The waterfront sets are magnificent as are the sets for the refuse dump where a lot of the action takes place. The cast is enormous and includes many recognised British names, from Timothy Spall, one of my personal favourites, to Margaret Tyzack, another favourite from the original "Forsyte Saga" series.

Each character is well drawn and complex in all its humanity and struggle for survival. Keely Hawes shines as a woman ill suited to a life on the river, retrieving drowned corpses for their clothes and possessions, and as her counterpart, Anna Friel is sparkling with wit and beauty as a poverty stricken woman striving to acquire a rich husband.

The script is authentic to Dickens and the era, underlaid with a haunting musical score and overlaid with a cinematography that sweeps from the multi-layered greys of the slums and river life to the lush English gardens of the well-to-do and their sumptuous parties.

Much like the mini "Pride and Prejudice", all the plot lines sweep to a happy, clean and simple denouement in the end, but the ride is sure-footed with many interesting characters to bewitch and fascinate along the way and a suspenseful drama to hold interest.

9 out of 10 and not to be missed.
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Romantic, hilarious, complex, and a cheerful ending from Dickens!
branagh fangirl30 December 1999
Warning: Spoilers
Filled with striking characters and cunning plot twists, this film keeps you on your toes. Two romance plotlines, a murder mystery, a number of stalkers and an inheritance all hang in the balance..who will survive, and who will be changed?

Steven MacKintosh gives a nuanced performance as John Rokesmith/John Harmond, a young man with a past he'd as soon forget and an uncertain future. Paul McGann is also wonderful as the Dickensian lawyer Eugene Rayburn, a bored young man whose life is changed forever when he meets Lizzie, the daughter of a man who finds bodies in the Thames, and when he confronts Bradley Headstone, the psychotic schoolmaster who is obsessed with Lizzie. Also of note are the actresses who played Lizzie and the money-obsessed Bella Wilfer, since so much of the story hinges on their believability. Was Dickens ever so much fun before?
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Much more satisfying than any film version...
walter_gibson10 January 2001
I've been recently seeing so many good adaptations of classical novels into mini-series, that I am becoming convinced they should never be made into feature length at all. I saw this on video all at once, which was almost six hours long. But, I could not stop watching. The character and plot developed so well, it was like reading a novel in one go. I don't often have the endurance to read a novel in one go. I must be honest I have not read 'Our Mutual Friend'. Often, when I see an adaptation of a novel, I want to read the novel. But this adaptation was so satisfying that I didn't really feel that need.

The performances were slightly varied in style, which seemed to suggest that it was the actors who had the control, not the director. David Morrissey's Bradley Headstone was very realistic, portraying him as a kind of ready to burst, angry and passionate man, as his face often changed color with anger, despair, passion and fear. So Keeley Hawes as Lizzie Hexam, being intimidated by and scared of Headstone was believable. I'd seen Keeley Hawes in the 'Begger Bride' before this, and I was fairly impressed by her portrayal of a completely virtuous character. She easily portrayed the mild, beautiful, and so very modest girl.

This adaptation also had the biggest TV role for Anna Friel at the time. And she was surprisingly good, and I always will expect her to play the feisty role, which is not a bad thing.

So, nice one.
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As good as Bleak House...
davybush15 May 2008
This adaptation of Our Mutual Friend is on a par with the BBC 's Bleak House, which was very impressive indeed. As with all of Dickens novels, a ninety minute movie can do them little justice. It was therefore wonderful to see how the director used the six hours to great affect in 'Our Mutual Friend'. The adaptation has no weak or flat spots, and the actors are without question perfect for every character, my own favourites being Mr Boffin, the loch keeper and the 'one legged man. Without detracting from the acting or plot line,the director gives us a sumptuous visual feast, without becoming too 'Dickensian'. I am biased by believing there is no greater creator of story lines and characters than Charles Dickens, and had he been alive today he would have undoubtedly been very heartened at this attempt to bring his genius to the screen.
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Rich adaptation of classic Dickens
LouE1515 September 2006
Fine adaptation of a powerful Dickens novel, full of the frustrating spectrum of strengths and weakness inherent in every Dickens story; from the powerful rage he expresses in documenting social injustice, to his goody-two-shoes pedestal-bound heroines. It's about class, love, the river, London, and it's full of great scenes and haunting visuals: witness a tormented Bradley Headstone stalking Eugene Wrayburn through the streets of the City at night. The length of the series does the work justice; the casting is outstanding – expect no less from any good BBC adaptation. The always excellent, underrated Stephen Mackintosh brings complexity and delicacy to his John Rokesmith; Paul McGann gets the best lines; and the entire cast brings the writing to life in a good-looking production - who cares if perhaps it all looks just a tad better than it should. A staple in my DVD collection, highly recommended.
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My favourite on-screen literary adaptation
flaming_nora11 September 2010
Our Mutual Friend is my favourite on-screen adaptation to date, and there are obviously some weighty contenders.

I appreciate that some people think there are too many characters, but most Dickens books are full of many and varied, wonderful characters and I think that Sandy Welch mastered the quantity in adaptation, without cutting out important characters and then sewing the plot closed around them (I still mourn the loss of Orlick from Lean's 'Great Expectations').

The casting and acting in Our Mutual Friend is superb and I feel slightly guilty to pick out certain actors above the rest so I will choose only one to shower with praise, David Morrissey, who performed with such convincing emotional rawness that I hoped for some kind of redemption for Bradley Headstone.

The opening scene gave me goosebumps when it first came on the BBC in 1998 and it sometimes has had that effect since, despite repeat viewings. The atmosphere captures the murk and mystery of the Thames and illustrates the ghoulish occupation of the boatmen.

This murk is matched with some scenes of great beauty, lavish outdoor scenes which celebrate the English countryside, great houses, colourful costumes and the chocolate box cottage. This serves to contrast against the stench of the dust heaps and the grime of Mr Venus's home.

Dear BBC, can you have Sandy or Andrew adapt Dombey and Son sometime soon?!
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Loved it!
kabarm14 January 2006
This is the best Charles Dickens' screen adaptation i've ever seen. As soon as i saw it i went out and bought it. I spend entire days watching. the characters are so involving you just have to put in the next tape even if you know what happens. The acting is amazing and the screen play is well written. My sister and I are in love with John. Part of the appeal of this movie is that it is uplifting. Something that i find unusual in Dickens'. the music is great as well and really adds to the emotions of the piece. Be warned it is six hours long, but well worth it.All in all a great movie and anyone who loves a good romance, treachery, or murder mystery should see it because it blends all three. If you haven't seen it see it! If you have seen it, see it again.
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Cuts some of Dickens's best dialogue
imdb-293010 December 2003
Warning: Spoilers
My copy of this version is treasured part of my video library, with solid performances from the cast and a Bradley Headstone suicide scene that chills me to the bone. But I long to see again the version made in 1976, which launched the careers of Warren Clarke, Jane Seymour, besides polishing the reputations of more established actors, like the great Leo McKern, Kathleen Harrison and Ronald Lacey - and cast expressions like "anatomical pursuits" and "mellering to the organ" into our family's private jargon for 25 years.

What I could not understand about this production was the removal of some choice Dickens dialogue, particularly between Messrs Boffin & Wegg. Peter Vaughan and Kenneth Cranham had to make do with a very cut down version of the "Weal & Hammer Pie" conversation, which Leo McKern and Alfie Bass made so hilarious I nearly climbed inside my telly.

But this is minor carping and should not put off the prospective viewer from a beautifully filmed production, one of the best period drama versions in recent decades. I'll watch it once a year until my tape wears out.

If I could only get hold of a copy of the 1976 version though. Now that WOULD be mellering to the organ!
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Absolutely wonderful!
MrBigglesworth24 January 1999
I saw this as soon as it came out on Masterpiece Theater and loved it! All the actors did a wonderful portrayal of the characters. (one of my particular favorites is Mr.Venus) The Boffins were superb, Lizzie was fabulous, everyone had the BEST facial expressions! . . . I could go on forever! :o) If you haven't seen it, you definitely should. It is really worth the full 6 hours.
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One of the best period dramas.
pma97dr-214 November 2000
This is a great adaptation. It is well cast and all the performances are excellent. I particularly liked the performances of David Morrissey as Bradley Hellstone and Stephen Mackintosh as John Rokesmith.

The script remains fairly faithful to the book, and the costumes and scenery give a very convincing Victorian look.
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Wonderful adaptation of a Dickens novel--don't miss it!
Red-12529 August 2017
Our Mutual Friend (1998) is a BBC TV mini-series directed by Julian Farino.

Our Mutual Friend was the last novel completed by Charles Dickens. It deals with issues about which Dickens was always concerned--social inequality, the hard lives of the poor, friendship, and love.

This is one of Dickens' most complicated novels--Wikipedia lists 36 characters. The author gives each one of these characters--even the minor ones--a life and personality of her or his own.

The plots is not only complicated, but somewhat forced and unrealistic. This is a movie to be enjoyed for the acting. In fact, the acting is superb. In my opinion, the best acting came from the supporting players. David Bradley portrays Roger (Rogue) Riderhood. He is a character in the novel who starts out fully evil, and ends up still fully evil. One look at Bradley and you think to yourself that here is an actor who was born to play the role.

Kenneth Cranham portrays Silas Wegg, another character with no redeeming virtues. Katy Murphy is excellent as Jenny Wren, a doll's dressmaker. Although Jenny is small, apparently has scoliosis, and is "lame," she has a warm and kind heart. Martin Hancock portrays Sloppy, a young man who is also warm and kind. He too has disabilities, which he strives to overcome.

The two female leads are both lovely, but in a very different way. Keeley Hawes portrays Lizzie Hexam, who is beautiful in an ethereal, Pre-Raphaelite way. She is one of the only characters who is truly good from the beginning until the end of the novel.

The other female lead, Bella Wilfer, starts out the movie obsessed with obtaining money. In Victorian times, this meant marrying a wealthy man. In the beginning of the novel, a marriage of this type appears fully open to her. However, matters don't go smoothly. Bella is a character who matures and changes as the novel progresses. Anna Friel plays Bella. Director Farino chose a actress with perfect beauty, who can portray a woman with almost no warmth or concern for others.

All the actors in this movie are highly talented. However, I give acting honors to Timothy Spall as Mr. Venus. Venus is a taxidermist and "articulator of bones." There is a calculation in everything he does. You can see it in his eyes and in his mannerisms. The man oozes calculation, desire, and venality. It would be worth seeing the movie just to watch Spall act.

Because this film was made for TV, it works well on the small screen. Because it was produced by the BBC, it has high production values. I was pleased to learn that "Our Mutual Friend" has an IMDb rating of 8.3, which is extraordinarily high. If you love Dickens--or even if you don't--this is a movie you'll want to see. Don't miss it!
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Practically Perfect in Every Way
goldberry-90-443418 October 2014
Our Mutual Friend is mostly about stalkers (there are seven). And not only dudes obsessed with beautiful women, but greedy rogues tracking down any embarrassing secrets in the lives of rich public figures, or jealous rivals shadowing their opponents.

Dickens was already fascinated by the idea that we cannot really know what goes on inside the hearts of our fellow men, and Our Mutual Friend further complicates this theme by incorporating the devious facades of high society and its occupants. From a pair of sycophantic social climbers to a one-legged man of letters, no one is what they seem.

As an adaptation, this six-hour TV film is near-perfect, cutting only the most superfluous subplots (Fascination Fledgeby, for instance). The minor characters almost steal the show, providing a coterie of wonderfully mad Dickensian eccentrics (it's hard to pick, but I think my favorite is Timothy Spall's lovelorn Mr. Venus, closely followed by David Bradley's hawkish Rogue Riderhood.)

But the main characters win the day. Our Mutual Friend contains several of the most beautiful relationships I've seen in period drama, thanks chiefly to the talent and charm of the principle actors. The sublimely beautiful Bella Wilfer is a splendid mix of pettiness and elfin charm. Lizzie Hexam is a bit too idealized and posh, but I'm sure old man Dickens would approve. Rokesmith combines mystery and ambiguity with an appealingly quiet dignity. Eugene Wrayburn, on the other hand, is wildly self- destructive and irresponsible, barely pardoned by his waggish charm. Perhaps the best performance of all is Mr. Headstone's, the passionate schoolmaster crippled by insecurity and pride.

The complexities of the plot are also fascinating to negotiate...romance, drama, and obsession thread their way through a ridiculously tangled web of inheritance, blackmail, and murder.

Also, Bella Wilfer's dresses are about the most gorgeous thing ever. If you're a period drama fan, this, my favorite Dickens adaptation of all time, isn't to be missed.

Longer review here: http://www.longview95.blogspot.com/2014/07/our-mutual- friend-review.html
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I love this movie....
Siobhan192120 May 2007
I love this movie!!! The depth of love and devotion John Harmon has and also the courage Eugene Braburn uses in defying society for love has makes me wonder what happened to the theory of romance. The theme of society verses love is an old one but always fascinating because it is a true choice. I like the many twists and turns of the story. Also every character has a part in this movie, whether it be for example purposes (the wedding of deception) or to tie in some further plot to the story. I am not usually a romantic movie watcher but I loved this one and I will always love this movie...I admire Dickens more than I thought I ever would....I would recommend those who love a good romantic story to watch this movie...
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Two couples find true love amidst the poverty and snobbery of 19th century London with surprise twists!
johnjhafs15 October 2005
This is a mini-series divided into four segments of about 1 1/2 hours each which tells the story of two couples who find each other despite the class system on 19th century Britain and against the background of terrible poverty. One is a lawyer who falls hopelessly in love with a young girl whose father made his living fishing dead bodies out of the Thames River, removing anything of value on them, and turning them in to the police. His family and friends are shocked and full of scorn and another man who also is smitten tries to kill him. The other is a man whose father leaves him a fortune providing he marries the girl of his father's choice whom he has never met and who is nearly murdered as he comes to meet her, another man who dies is mistaken for him, allowing him to assume a new identity and observe her from a distance. She is money-mad but he falls hopelessly in love with her and, later on, she with him. The story has its share of villains and many surprises. It is well done, well acted, and a delight!
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Mudlarks and Bones.
rmax3048234 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I was confused throughout most of this series, regarding the characters and their relationships to one another, so much so that I wonder if I watched the episodes in their proper order. All, however, was resolves in Episode Four. I made certain I watched it last.

Like the other BBC renditions of Dickens, it's obviously a classy production. In a way, the narrative threads -- which perplexed me -- are just the icing on the cake anyway, because the production values here are so high and so persuasively accurate that it's like watching a five-hour ethnography of London in the 1840s. I've never seen such filth. All of Dickens' works involve the poor, but these "boat people" are at the very bottom of the scale.

They live in and around the mud on the banks of the Thames and they cart away cinders from heaps of ashes to be sold for making bricks. And I always thought I had it bad. Timothy Spall, as the humble but good Mr. Venus, hauls garbage in its various configurations from the river to refurbish and resell them -- cast-off clothing, discarded umbrellas, carcasses of animals and humans, bits of metal, glass jars, dolls. He's managed to accumulate enough human bones -- a femur here, a calcaneus there -- to assemble an almost complete human skeleton, of which he is justly proud. It engenders one of those choice bits of Dickensian prose. Mr. Venus is associating with a respectable woman and he's hopeful that, if they are ever married, his profession won't lead to "her being regarded in a bony light." I love it when they say things like that. Elsewhere, Dickens has a character exclaim: "Oh, joy! What a reversal of desolation!" No wonder W. C. Fields was so convincing as Mr. Micawber.

Dickens clearly means to direct our attention to the plight of the poor. These are people who, when they grow old and die, crawl off under a bush and expire alone like worn-out animals.

Yet Dickens doesn't romanticize his disenfranchised. There is at least as much evil among them as there is among the rich. And this is a typical story for him -- hidden wills, marriage above or below one's station, intrigues to lay hands on an inheritance, blackmail, that sort of thing. But Dickens was no revolutionary -- not, at least, judging from those of his works that I'm familiar with. Everything can be solved by truth, charity, and justice. Well, sometimes.

Being a scavenger in the rubbish heaps or the cholera-ridden cloaca that was the Thames was in fact a dangerous business. Disease was rampant, especially among children, at the time. That was all before Britain's National Health Care, of course. It's curious that, as I write this, there is such a hateful outcry against even the slightest form of improvement in health care in the United States. I'm compelled to believe that there are Americans of some number who wouldn't object to a return to the health delivery system of Dickensian London. If poor people had any ambition they wouldn't get ill in the first place. Social Darwinism redux. Herbert Spencer is applauding from beyond the grave. Scrooge would have approved too.

All the performances are at least adequate and some are better than that. Anna Friel as Bella is outstanding. She's not afraid to talk and eat at the same time. The Make Up Department should get a medal. What overblown blowziness! The teeth of the poor are especially well done. They seem to hang in the air by themselves as things do in especially amorphous nightmares.

But I think I may have worn out my enthusiasm for the Dickens series. Maybe it was my own fault. Maybe I DID mix up the episodes. But it seemed a little tiresome -- long, mostly sad, and complicated. Made me want to watch a Bugs Bunny cartoon or eat some sherbet or something to clean my palate. But they're so well executed that I'm sure I'll get back to them after a year or two in a straight jacket so I don't slit my wrists.
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Outstanding, one of the best Dickens adaptations there's been
TheLittleSongbird11 September 2013
Both this adaptation and the one from 1976 do justice to Dickens' final novel, and are truly excellent on their own. Talking about preferences though, that is a very hard one as both are so good, for now from this viewer they're about equal in quality with this one getting the slight edge. The book is a mammoth one, very complex with lots of story lines, emotions and characters, a really great piece of literature if like a lot of Charles Dickens difficult to adapt. Excellent is not enough to describe this adaptation as it is one of the best Dickens adaptations I've seen and almost certainly ever been too. Not just that, but also one of the best period dramas of the past 25-30 years or so.

It is a very opulent production, beautifully shot and from the grim streets to the rich aristocracy and waterfront the period detail is rich and stunning to watch. It is not quite as atmospheric as the earlier adaptation(though the scene with Bradley Headstone's stalking of Eugene through the city at night is a very atmospheric, suspenseful and quite haunting scene), but the contrast of the poor and rich is more convincingly done here(just look at the teeth of the poor for example). The haunting music score is noteworthy as well, and the dialogue is sophisticated, funny, whimsical, thoughtful and foreboding and mostly Dickenesian flavour. A couple of parts sound a little too simplified though, and the Weal and Hammer Pie scene was agreed better done in the earlier adaptation, that though is nowhere near enough to hinder anything and to be warranted as a flaw.

Our Mutual Friend(1998) does a terrific job adapting such a complex and layered story, again like most Dickens dramatisations it's long at six hours but always engrossing and never dull. The pacing is beautifully measured, and perhaps more accessible than the 1976 version, which was much more deliberate, effectively so from personal perspective. Though a lot of 1970s-80s Dickens-adapted serials have been criticised for being tedious, a criticism that I myself don't share. The telling of it is very suspenseful with hope at the end, some nice comic moments, whimsy and heart-breaking tragedy complete with an evocative atmosphere and one of the most harrowing suicide scenes you'll ever see. Even with omissions it's also fairly faithful and maintains the spirit of Dickens' writing.

The acting is exceptional all round, and helped by the smart direction and the rich, detailed way the characters are handled. Particularly good are Steven Mackintosh and David Morissey, Mackintosh's performance is restrained, nuanced and assertive- much more convincing age-wise than the Rokesmith in the earlier adaptation- while Morrissey isn't just chilling and tormented but brings tremendous depth to the besotted schoolteacher who descends into obsessive madness. Paul McGann has some great lines, a few among the best of the entire adaptation, and manages to be amusing and dashing. Keeley Hawes is positively luminous and plays Lizzie with great charm and dignity, Lesley Dunlop's interpretation is a little more mature but Hawes is hardly fresh-out-of-finishing-school-type as described in a positive Amazon review of the 1976 adaptation.

Anna Friel is very beautiful as well as witty and charming, Bella is not the most pleasant of characters but Friel brings that across while also making her attractive too. Timothy Spall is humble and appealingly oddball and Peter Vaughan(a sinister Mr Tulkinghorn in the superb 1985 adaptation of Bleak House) and Pam Ferris play the Boffins with great character and gusto. Kenneth Cranham plays Silas Wegg with real ferocity with touches of humour, while David Bradley's Riderhood is cool and calculating and Margaret Tyzack is a formidable presence. Overall, outstanding and among the best Dickens adaptations and period dramas there's been in the past 25-30 years. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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Suspiciously beautiful
Luuk-222 May 2002
Although I enjoyed the first few installments, slowly but surely a slight feeling of discomfort came over me. With such sentimental authors like Dickens it is difficult to know when you are criticising the director and when the author, and I find it almost impossible to keep them apart in my evaluation of this mini. This comes out best at the very end when all the loose threads are finally resolved. What a bummer! Eventhough I enjoyed the previous installments I felt completely cheated in the last. This is partly Dickens' fault, but some blame is due to the director as well. Throughout the mini he has displayed a marked tendency to concentrate on what would look good rather than on what would work well dramatically. Now I am al for pretty pictures, but as I was approaching the end it just all became a bit too much: the predictable switches between high and low society, the over-the-top staged settings (Bella Wilfer in front of her cottage in the last installment), the stilted switches between scenes. The acting on the other hand was good.

All in all, a bare 8- out 10 (for what is possible in the genre see the first rate mini _Wives and Daughters_ (1999) directed by Nicholas Renton. Then again, Elizabeth Gaskell agrees with me more than Dickens does).
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Adaptation and Acting Suuperb, although I have a bone to pick with Dickens...
miriamkgross920 July 2005
The cast (except for Paul Bailey) was excellent, especially Steven Mackintosh, who did a wonderful job portraying John Harmon. I have never been disappointed by this top-rate actor. Anna Friel, David Morrissey, Timothy Spall, Dominic Mafham, and David Bradley also were wonderful.

The adaptation was also excellent. There were whole chunks of dialogue taken from the novel, and the story followed very closely to the novel as well. All in all an excellent film.

I am giving this a ten out of ten for the acting and the adaptation for film. Not the plot. I was disappointed with the ending of the plot of the book, and naturally, the film follows that plot. The ending is very lame, and I am sure Dickens could have thought up a much better closure. Still, a very high quality film all around. To any one who reads this, see the film in question! Especially to see Steven Mackintosh act...
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Spoiled by indistinct dialogue and music
Bernie-5619 May 2020
This could have been a fine production but suffesr from two egegrious errors that were common at the time, still are to quite an extent.

1. Overpowering background music. Mood music behind the dialogue and between scenes is pointless and does nothing to enhance the mystery or mood. Granted, it was fashionable but it's annoying none the less.

2. Authentic accents that are hard to understand. This is an ongoing probem in this type of drama. Mumbling in an supposed Victorian accent is clever but makes for a bad drama, especially when overpowered further by music or background sound effects. Clear, distinct dialogue aids understanding and enjoyment even if it is not how characters might be assumed to speak.
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Exceptional Cast crippled by Failures of Plot and Story
sshogben8 November 2007
This recent BBC filmed version of Dickens' "Our Mutual Friend" was a big budget project that fell far short of lofty ambitions. The film clearly wanted to be a grand sweeping epic of the Victorian Era, but ultimately this story did not have much to say.

Conceived as a massive 6-hour work to be presented in four ninety-minute segments, the plotting is so heavy-handed and obvious, even tedious, that lopping a full quarter out of the whole could only have improved the story and pacing. As it was, the primary plot elements were so unoriginal and timeworn that – even though previously unfamiliar with either this Dickens original book or other filmed adaptations of it – I found no suspense whatsoever to one of the two main plot lines to the story. What Happened was clearly implicit to me from the get-go. The timing of When this What later Happened thus presented comparatively little incentive for my interest..

The fatal script shortcomings of "Our Mutual Friend" appeared to me even more striking by contrast against another recent BBC release – "Under The Greenwood Tree" (2005) – which I had just viewed for the first time a short while previously. Where "Our Mutual Friend" squandered so much time and talent telling an ostentatiously complex story that proved superficial and obvious, "Under The Greenwood Tree" succeeded brilliantly in conveying ... (despite only ninety minutes, and a much smaller budget) ... a deceptively simple story that nonetheless captured layer upon layer of universal relevance and deep meaning.

By no means, however, should the failings of "Our Mutual Friend" be attributed to its performers, who were uniformly excellent from top to bottom.

In form "Our Mutual Friend" presents two separate but occasionally intersecting plot lines. Through the strength of their performances, Steven Mackintosh and Anna Friel brought to the Painfully Obvious half of the story more interest than the weakness of that storyline could otherwise have generated. Paul McGann and Keeley Hawes, however, were even better – though it must be confessed the beautifully modulated tones of Ms. Hawes seemed a long way from the docklands dialect her role suggested. Supporting performances by such veteran character actors as Peter Vaughan and Pam Ferris (as the inimitable Boffins) brought richness and depth to material that otherwise would have been completely forgettable, though if I had to pick one actor who triumphed far and above the limitations inherent in his role it would be David Bradley (best known as Argus Filch from the "Harry Potter" canon) creating a memorably rascally Roger Riderhood.

Sit through "Our Mutual Friend" – once – to enjoy exceptional performances from a great cast of exceptional British actors. Rent – once – but not buy.

3 out of 10.
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Joel-125 January 1999
Took a lot of my friends by surprise.

They are in two basic categories:

(1) Never saw the remaining parts - "TOO MANY CHARACTERS"

(2) Saw Part TWO and Loved the acting - storyline - etc.

(those falling into part two - still thought it had too many characters).

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Too good the ending to be true
Dr_Coulardeau30 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The very first element that has to be said about this novel, or this work is that it is too intricate and characters are too complicated and intertwined in their motivations and even identities that we find it difficult to follow. The plot is slightly too thick for me.

The second element is the social cruelty of the story. Cruelty against the poor, the small, the lower classes. They are working like hell making their bosses rich and they are described as having no real human feelings, no real human dimension. They are like human animals living in dirt, squalor and bleakness. It is at times unbearable how little self-respect they may have for themselves, and as for that only a few, and very few women make an effort among these poor people to be clean and keep their house and household clean.

These poor are over-endowed with alcoholism and gross attitudes and habits, drinking late at night in dirty and in many ways disgusting public houses. And here is Dickens's social Darwinism. The upper classes are shown with all kinds of respectable qualities and everything is genteel with them. They drink in parties in glasses served to them on a tray by special servants, with music and beautiful dresses and suits. In these circles marriage has to be within one's own social rank, a type of social segregation particularly obnoxious, and marriage is first of all for money and nothing else, which is absolute hypocrisy, but at least in comfort and cleanliness, except for the abuse of cigars.

So think of the situation in this novel of a miser of no genteel extraction and with no respectable human sentiments, who made his fortune out of the heap of dirt and rubbish collected in London and deposited up some river and sorted out with shovels by some human rats. What's more being a miser he is rejected by everyone. So his decision to give all his fortune to his son whom no one knows at all provided he marries the woman this father has set for him in his will makes the whole thing melodramatic and overwrought.

So after a few murders and a lot of squalid events Dickens manages to bring up some happy ending for three young couples and an older one and a good old sound heavy moral lesson about doing what the heart is supposed to tell you to do and never be over-fascinated with money. But at the same time the only people who really suffer in this situation are the poor, even if they are shown as deserving that treatment. When you are born in the dregs of society your are bound to remain there and to end very badly.

A little bit short, Mr. Dickens, and your regenerated main character is regenerated only symbolically, and he could not be rejected to the end since he was born on the right side of the silver spoon, even if this silver spoon has to be called a garbage shovel.

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