Restricted to under two hours in which to communicate the nuances of familial and social connections, and how they impact one's major life choices, in the 18th century world described by Jane Austen, Persuasion does an admirable job. Ordinarily, the only way to do her novels justice is to resort to the miniseries, or else cut away large portions of character interaction (to call it plot suggests a linearity that Austen's stories, by and large, do not possess). Persuasion fits in as much as possible, especially at first, presumably in order to get all of the characters into action as quickly as it can. This makes things a little confusing, as the viewer spends some time figuring out who is related to whom, and why this individual and that seem to despise one another on sight. One might be lost entirely, except that the fine performances from the principals -- Amanda Root (Anne) and Ciaran Hinds (Wentworth), both of the Royal Shakespeare Company -- are sufficient to steer one through. They bring Austen's tale of love denied, and then rekindled, to life with the smallest gestures. In particular, Root brings to her character a marvelous transformation over the course of the film. From a quiet, rather dowdy character at the beginning, we see her blossom as she recovers the confidence and passion of her youth. It's a more complicated tale than most of Austen's stories, and occasionally the clutter of the plot threatens to get in the way, but overall this is a fine adaptation, avoiding the stiltedness that too often overwhelms this type of production.
by Genevieve Williams review