In southwest England in the 1790’s, Elinor Dashwood (played by Emma Thompson) and her sister Marianne (by Kate Winslet) are young spinster sisters. Elinor is demure and sensible, whereas Marianne is expressive and passionate. They are both at the right age to marry (although Elinor is getting a little “long in the tooth”) and they spend the Season attending social occasions and greeting gentleman callers in the search for a suitable husband. When their father, Mr Dashwood, dies, he must leave the bulk of his estate to the son by his first marriage, so the young women with their mother – the second Mrs Dashwood (by Gemma Jones) – and younger sister Margaret (by Emilie Francois) are pushed out of their home and must rely on the support family for food and shelter. The sisters’ lack of fortune depletes their attractiveness for marriage and the parade of eligible bachelors narrows somewhat. During this upheaval, we meet the dashing but unprincipled Willoughby (by Greg Wise), timid but rich Edward Ferrars (by Hugh Grant) and steady but boring.Colonel Brandon (by Alan Rickman). The girls’ interractions with these gentlemen – all with the clear intent to create partnerships (rather than enjoy romance or love) – are played out over two or three social seasons. Of course, the path to true love doesn’t run smoothly for the sisters and we experience their emotional trials and challenges as they traverse the tricky societal norms, until each finally finds true love, a suitable marriage partner and the promise of happiness ever after.
This movie is a very good period adaptation of Jane Austen’s first novel. It is a delightful story and the characters demonstrate the wonderful dilemmas created by the social rules of the time, coupled with the real emotions that each must find some way to confine in order to achieve social acceptance. The script for this was written by Emma Thompson and she has done a marvellous job as the production has eloquent use of English language and some wonderful banter. Both Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet play their characters beautifully, with subtlety and naturalness. The three key males are very well done. Hugh Grant’s creation of Edward Ferrar’s is particularly heart-warming – he is such a caring and gentle soul (but this seemed to be a common role for him at that stage). Alan Rickman plays his character very straight and dry, which I assume is the way Austen has written him. Willoughby is a rogue and a heart-breaker and Greg Wise is great in this role. All performances are good and the movie itself is made beautifully.
Made 1995: Directed by Ang Lee