From the team that brought you "Pride and Prejudice." Set in a richly portrayed society well-stocked with eccentric nobles and gossipy villagers, the story centers around 17-year-old Molly Gibson, the only daughter of a re... more »spected country Doctor.« less
"This is a superlative period piece and a brilliant adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's 1865 novel of the same name. This BBC mini-series is a superb costume drama with stellar performances by the entire cast. Set in rural England, the film centers around Molly Gibson, the seventeen year old daughter of a country doctor. Richly drawn portraits of Molly's neighbors and friends quickly emerge and weave an absorbing tapestry of nineteenth century life.
Molly and her father, a widower for most of Molly's life, have an exceptionally close and loving relationship. Their relationship is put to the test when he decides to marry a widow and former governess, Hyacinth, who is a pretentious, self absorbed, ridiculous woman. She has a grown daughter named Cynthia, a beautiful young woman, close to Molly in age, but as different from Molly as night and day. Cynthia is best described as a Marilyn Monroe of the Victorian age. Cynthia and Molly become fast friends, while Molly barely tolerates her nigh intolerable step-mother.
The series really revolves around Molly's relationships with all the characters in the production and her handling of the various everyday situations in which she finds herself. Richly drawn, memorable characters, as well as intrigues, secrets, and romance, make this a highly absorbing drama and one that those who love period pieces and lush, well acted costume dramas will enjoy. It is simply a masterpiece.
With stunningly crisp visuals and beautiful clarity of sound, the production value of this three disc, five hour DVD is simply first rate. It is also value laden with some very interesting features. There is an engaging fifty five minute portrait of Elizabeth Gaskell, the author of the novel upon which this mini-series is based. There is a also a twenty minute documentary on the making of the film which is entertaining, as it gives a bird's eye view of the thought that went into the making of the film and the development of the characters. There is also a who's who guide to the performers. This DVD is well worth having in one's collection."
The BBC does it again!! Splendid, romantic tale...
Marcy Gomez | Kansas City, USA | 02/18/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Wives and Daughters" is adapted from the unfinished Victorian novel of Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell and is produced by the same creative geniuses that gave us A&E/BBC's 1995 "Pride and Prejudice."This story centers around girl-next-door Molly Gibson (Justine Waddell of "Mansfield Park," "Tess" and "Great Expectations") and her father, the town doctor (Bill Patterson). Their idyllic lives are turned upside down when Mr. Gibson remarries the selfish, self-absorbed Claire Fitzpatrick (Francesca Annis) and her beautiful daughter Cynthia (Keeley Hawes of "Our Mutual Friend") join the household. The brothers Osborne (Tom Hollander) and Roger (handsome newcomer Anthony Howell who reminds me of a young Mel Gibson) Hamley add romantic interest to the tale. However, the Hamleys come from old English stock and the squire Hamley (veteran actor Michael Gambon) desires his sons to marry into "wealthy old English families." Before long, Molly falls for Roger and Roger falls for Cynthia and we, the viewers, find some surprising discoveries along the way!!Memorable supporting characters include the goodhearted Browning sisters, town gossip Mrs. Goodenough, mysterious Mr. Preston (Iain Glen) and the aristocratic Cumnor family. Justine Waddell is luminous as Molly and Michael Gambon and Francesca Annis turn in memorable performances. The scenery, costumes and production values are all excellent. Screenwriter Andrew Davies - who also penned P&P - gives us a satisfying, romantic new ending that would make Mrs. Gaskell proud. I loved every moment of this adaptation! If you are an Anglophile, enjoy a great love story or are a fan of Mrs. Gaskell, this is the film for you!!!"
Great series - shame about the mutilation
martin brent | london | 05/23/2002
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This miniseries was originally broadcast in the UK as a widescreen (16:9) version. When released on DVD in the UK and Australia it retained the widescreen anamorphic format. Sadly, BBC and Warners don't feel the American public is ready or deserving of such an innovation. Instead we are being sold a horrible reduction that has been crudely cropped at the edges. Instead of a lovely anamorphic widescreen picture it is a grainy, pixillated, slightly matted full frame (about 4.5:3). This wouldn't matter so much if the director and cinematographer hadn't clearly lavished so much care on composing their scenes to fit the widescreen format. The consequence is that in many shots the characters have half their faces missing and often appear to be talking to empty space. If you don't find this sort of thing a distraction, then I strongly reccommend this series - lavish production values, beautifully acted and the usual witty script with a contemporary (but not anachronisitic) feel from Andrew Davies (Pride and Prejudice, House of Cards etc etc). All the more reson I think to blow a big fat rasberry to the BBC for needlessly and crudely mutilating so outstanding an achievement - and not even having the courage to 'fess up on the DVD case!!"
Wonderful adatation of a mediocre book...
Dianne Foster | USA | 08/26/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I put off seeing the adaptation of WIVES AND DAUGHTERS on tv and buying the DVD because I figured it was a feeble attempt by the BBC to cash in on the popularity of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. Literary critics do not consider Mrs. Gaskell's writing to be as accomplished as Jane Austen's. Gaskell wrote "best sellers" during her day (19th Century approximately 50 years after Austen), but unlike her counterparts of the 19th Century - Austen, the Bronte Sisters, and George Eliot, Gaskell's books did not stand the test of time. It is a credit to Andrew Davies that he has been able to take the wide range of material he has and transform it into perfection. The BBC adaptation of WIVES AND DAUGHTERS IS PERFECTION. First, the DVD itself is clear and beautifully articulated. The sound and color are precise. This is a first class work of art comparable to adaptations of classics such as JEWEL IN THE CROWN and ROOM WITH A VIEW. Second, the lush settings, costumes, and other aspects of scenery and background are extremely realistic and accurate. This is not a tinsel-town sound stage rip-off, this is the real thing. WIVES is comparable to the Merchant-Ivory films. Third, the actors are superb. There isn't a dud in the bunch. As a BBC junkie, I am familiar with most of the actors, and was bowled over by the star power. The casting of Ian Carmichael (Lord Peter Wimsey) and Barbara Leigh-Hunt (Darby's Aunt in 'Pride and Prejudice') as Lord and Lady Cunmore is a fine example of the thought that went into choosing who should play whom. Francesca Annis is fabulous as Molly's very proper new step-mother. The Browning sisters are marvelous (Mystery fans will recognize both of them). And, last but not least, Justine Waddell is a great actress whom I must liken to the young Wendy Hiller. Waddell has one of the most expressive faces around and she plays it well. This young woman is destined to be a Dame of the British Empire. WIVES - as adapted by Davies - is tight, coherent, and flows logically (unlike Mrs. Gaskell's book). Characters behave in predictable but interesting ways. There are no "bad guys" or "good guys" everyone is very human. Even the wonderful Molly is not perfect and I for one would find her unbelievable if she were. Neither Molly's stepmother Hyacinth, nor her stepsister Cynthia are "bad" -- they are beautiful, charming, and self obsessed. Mrs Gaskell was clear and Davies keeps this bit in ... poverty does not make people nice. Molly is a better person because she has always had a loving father on hand to admonish her when she misbehaved whereas Cynthia was forced to fend for herself as her mother tended other people's children. Cynthia has learned some not so gentle survival techniques. I love this story because the people and the events depicted in it are based on real events. Molly is a fictional character but many of the episodes about her life are drawn from Mrs. Gaskell's own experiences and knowledge of other's lives. And, although she may not have used her as a role model, there was a young woman named Eleanor Omerod who became one of Britain's leading agricultural entemologists during the time when WIVES takes place. Eleanor began studing insects casually in 1852 when she observed an unusual locust which she wrote about in her diary. Later, she discovered a rare beetle on her father's estate in Gloucestershire which brought her to the attention of Professor C.G.B. Daubeny at Oxford. Thus she began a life long interest and career in a field few women entered. As a member of the Royal Botanical Society, Omerod was responsible for placing entemologists in Kenya and elsewhere. Fans of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE will enjoy this DVD, but it is not like Jane Austin's tales. Mrs Gaskell was not an accomplished ironist. Much of the tongue-in-cheek humor found in Austin's books is missing. However, Austen made fun of those she deemed pretentious to an excess and as a result, some of her characters are almost two-dimensional. Mrs. Gaskell's characters are developed, even those who might fall into the category of "pretension" in an Austin book. Mrs. Gaskell was concerned with the plight of "fallen" women and their redemption by nonjugmental folks. To Davies credit, this angle of the story has been preserved."
Delightful DVD extras!
qleaper | Southern California | 05/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"After seeing the mini-series on PBS, I just had to read the book and buy the DVD! The same production team that made the wonderful 1996 adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" did a superb job in adapting "Wives and Daughters." The cast also does justice to the way the characters were written by Mrs. Gaskell -- my only reservations were Keely Hawes as the beautiful Cynthia (her hair style was very unappealing; in "Our Mutual Friend" she is ten times more good-looking), and Anthony Howell as Roger had to grow on me after a few viewings to be fully appreciated. But Justine Waddell just shines as Molly, and Bill Paterson as Mr. Gibson and Sir Michael Gambon as Squire Hamley are in top form (the latter justly deserving all the kudos and awards he received in the UK).I was immensely pleased with the 3-disc DVD. The first two have each two episodes, as shown on TV, with scene selection capabilities (my only complaint is that they do not have any subtitles available). The picture is crystal clear and very sharp. Other BBC productions, such as P&P and Emma, which are much darker, don't age particularly well, but the brightness in Wives and Daughters makes it fresh and the quality equals that of a feature film. The third disc is reserved for the extra features: cast bios (the print could have been a bit larger) and two "featurettes", "Who the Dickens is Mrs. Gaskell?" and the "Making-of" of Wives and Daughters. The Making-of is just delightful. It runs 20 minutes long, and shows a lot of cast-member interviews (some in modern clothes, which is a real kick -- Anthony Howell in jeans and t-shirt! Justine Waddell in a bath robe!) and they all provide a lot of valuable insight into the characters. The documentary on Mrs. Gaskell is interesting, but the first 15 minutes (out of 50) are the best, as they again show more behind-the-scenes of Wives and Daughters. The rest mostly follows a group of Gaskell enthusiasts as they visit the places she lived in and discuss her other works.If you enjoyed the book and the mini-series, buy the DVD -- it is worth every penny!"