PBS’ Original UK Edition of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is a masterpiece. It helps that the team behind this TV miniseries had an exceptional story to work with from the start. Nevertheless, this new adaptation of what is widely considered one of the greatest novels by Charles Dickens is hauntingly beautiful.
Having never read the book, I wasn’t preoccupied with how accurate the story followed the book. I was honestly intrigued by the developments and the relationships between these characters and the manipulation of these innocent children.
From the minute we are introduced to Pip, Philip Pirrip, there’s an unexplainable connection, a feeling of sorrow and sadness for the young orphaned boy. His family has been killed, for reasons unbeknownst to viewers, and he’s been taken in by his hot-tempered older sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, and her blacksmith husband Joe Gargery, who takes care of Pip as if he were his own son. His only dream is to work side-by-side with his brother-in-law at the blacksmith’s forge, but that all quickly changes when fate intervenes in his plans.
When the show begins, Pip is ambushed by an escaped convict in the marshes. He brings the convict a file to cut off his shackles, and a piece of pie for him to eat. This act of goodness stays with the convict, something that becomes engraved in his brain. Not long after this incident, Pip is called on by a wealthy, reclusive neighbour, Miss Havisham, to the macabre Satis house to be a playmate for her adopted daughter, Estella.
It’s almost right away that Pip starts to fall in love with his new playmate, a beautiful young lady who is wise beyond her years, yet she also holds Pip at arm’s length, almost as if she’s afraid to allow him to get too close to her. Pip also becomes fascinated and quite curious about the mysterious ghost of a bride, and for her, continues to visit Estella.
But Miss Havisham – who had her heart-broken by her fiance who left her waiting at the altar and still wears her wedding dress amidst the dust and cobweb encased ruins of her wedding feast – has gone to great lengths to ensure her precious Estella, her “prize”, will never risk heartbreak, raising her more as a tool for revenge than a child.
Soon Pip is mysteriously invited to London by an anonymous benefactor who wants him to become a gentleman. With access to unlimited wealth at his fingertips, Pip starts down a dark path with obstacles and roadblocks in his course that prove love isn’t the answer for everything and that perhaps, the simple life of a Blacksmith was all he needed to be happy.
Actress Gillian Anderson (X-Files, Bleak House) is phenomenal in her role of Miss Havisham. She’s convincing and believable, so much so, that she draws you in with each glance and every word that falls from her lips. Anderson has transformed herself into this ghost of a bride who’s heartbroken and angry at the world – she makes you feel her pain so intensely. Anderson is brilliant in this role.
This adaptation of Great Expectations is thrilling, full of outstanding performances and has intrigued me to read the novel now. The British drama also stars David Suchet and Ray Winstone, with emerging talents Douglas Booth and Vanessa Kirby.
Great Expectations is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray. For more visit www.pbs.org.