Film Review: Great Expectations

Director Mike Newall offers a faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic with Great Expectations.

Orphan Pip lives with his sister and her blacksmith husband. Pip’s humble upbringing is altered irrevocably when a mysterious benefactor wants to make him a gentlemen…

 Mike Newall’s version of Great Expectations is a traditional period drama. The film remains faithful to Dickens’ classic. All the main aspects of the novel are included in this film adaptation. Some minor elements are omitted, presumably because of time constraints and pacing. However, this does not alter the overall narrative. It is a lot more faithful than the recent BBC television adaptation of Dickens’ novel.

There are quite a few characters and strands in Great Expectations. Screenwriter David Nicholls manages to balance these out, without omitting important elements or making the film feel weighed down. Despite a running time of over two hours, Great Expectations never feels overlong, or slacking in its pace.

Newall’s film is beautifully shot. Great Expectations is visually sumptuous, making the most of its locations and sets. Similarly, costumes in the film are excellent. The film is styled very much like a traditional period piece; there is a lavishness to the look of Great Expectations.

Casting in this adaptation is spot on. Ralph Fiennes makes a fine Magwitch, while Jason Flemyng’s Joe tallies with the novel. Jeremy Irvine and Holliday Grainger offer good performances as the adult Pip and Estella. Helena Bonham Carter is perfectly cast as Miss Havisham. Bonham Carter encapsulates the character with an entirely believable performance.

Great Expectations is escapist drama for the winter season. Traditional and sumptuous.