Synopsis by Mike Cummings
In this 1994 BBC adaptation of George Eliot's novel, altruism, social reform, and romantic love struggle to survive against snobbery, economic oppression, and self-indulgence. Set in the fictional town of Middlemarch in the 1830s, the film begins when Dr. Tertius Lydgate (Douglas Hodge) arrives in the community to begin a medical practice. Because of his knowledge of the latest medical techniques and his desire to do humanitarian work and pioneering laboratory research, Lydgate becomes the ideal candidate for the pro bono position of superintendent of a new Middlemarch hospital. Meanwhile, Dorothea Brooke (Juliet Aubrey), a well-to-do resident of the nearby town of Tipton Grange, desperately searches for a noble cause to occupy her time. She and her sister Celia, both orphans, live with their uncle, Arthur Brooke (Robert Hardy), in a spacious home where they enjoy a comfortable life. After Dorothea observes the plight of poor tenant farmers during a horseback ride in the country, she decides to promote new housing for the farmers. But Dorothea and Lydgate both encounter obstacles as they attempt to realize their dreams. In Dorothea's case, her own uncle, Mr. Brooke, who operates the worst of the tenant farms, refuses to endorse her housing plan. As a self-satisfied member of the local establishment and a possible candidate for Parliament, he deems it wise to maintain the status quo. In Lydgate's case, a corrupt banker, Nicholas Bulstrode (Peter Jeffrey), threatens to block the physician's appointment as hospital superintendent unless he supports Bulstrode's candidate for the hospital chaplaincy. Against his better judgment, Lydgate compromises his integrity and backs Bulstrode's man rather than the man better-suited for the job. But the problems of Dorothea and Lydgate don't stop there. Dorothea, who is strikingly attractive, intelligent, and sensitive, chooses a middle-aged husband, the Rev. Edward Casaubon (Patrick Malahide), because she thinks she can contribute to his scholarly pursuits. But after marrying him, she discovers he is cold and conceited -- a walking book with an attitude. Her real love, though she doesn't fully realize it, is Will Ladislaw (Rufus Sewell), a handsome painter and social reformer who now must keep his distance from the married woman. Lydgate, deeply in love with pretty Rosamond Vincy (Trevyn McDowell), marries her only to discover that she is a self-centered spendthrift. While he dotes on her, she dotes on his bank account. Subplots emerge to add suspense and intrigue. One involves Rosamond's brother, Fred (Jonathan Firth), who abandons his studies for the ministry against his father's wishes to work the land and to pursue a young woman below his social status. Another involves the grasping banker Bulstrode, who is being blackmailed for acquiring money illegally. Casaubon dies of a heart ailment less than two years after he marries Dorothea, but he manages to hold onto her from the grave. His will states that she must forfeit all the property she inherits if she marries Ladislaw. Because she has already committed portions of her considerable inheritance to charitable causes, she rejects Ladislaw, but cannot tell him why. By this time, Rosamond has bankrupted Lydgate. Suspense builds as the film moves toward its conclusion and discloses the fate of the central characters -- Dorothea, Ladislaw, Lydgate, Rosamond, Bulstrode, and the others.
inheritance, love-triangle, marriage, reconciliation, wedding, widow/widower