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Great Expectations

Some larks but no depth – ★★½

Into the West Director Mike Newell has turned his hand to Dickens and although he’s got the look and feel right, he seems to have forgotten the heart. Style over substance leaves you wanting more after an already long running time.

What follows is a two line summation of Great Expectations; Pip (Jeremy Irvine or Toby Irvine as Pip the younger and also Jeremy’s little brother) is taken in by Lady Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter) to play with Estella (Holliday Grainger or Helena Barlow as Estella the younger). Having sampled wealth Pip is distraught at having to return back to work with Joe (Jason Flemyng) as a blacksmith’s apprentice. When Pip discovers he is to become a gentleman due to an inheritance he is delighted and under the guidance of Jaggers (Robbie Coltrane) embarks for London.

The film contains much more twists and turns but for anyone who hasn’t read the novel or seen previous adaptations there is certainly enough here to wet the appetite. It is always an arduous task to try and make a novel for the silver screen, especially one as loved and revered as Great Expectations. Countless film and TV series have all dealt with Dickens’ work before so do we really need another one? Perhaps, if it shows a new side or is modernised in some way but with Newell’s version we are left with a pretty bog standard period piece.

| o | – Ms. Havisham missed the returns deadline for her wedding dress

Much is rushed in order to try and fit in the revelations and character connections and when these occur on screen it feels as if we are watching some “previously on Great Expectations” summation. No time is given for characters to fully develop or earn our sympathy, leaving us cold and unconnected. The actors seem bored, Bonham Carter is doing kooky and looks like she is killing time before her next Burton project and you feel Ralph Fiennes could have phoned his performance in. The child versions of both Pip and Estella are possibly the best of the lot charged with the tough task of making you believe their love for one another. Coltraine is solid as ever with his role as Jaggers emerging from many a shadow throughout the film and Olly Alexander as Herbert Pocket makes you warm to him much more effectively than his best friend Pip.

For a film dealing with the whole raft of human emotions none of these seem to come across on screen thanks mainly to wooden performances and slick styling. It is only Joe the blacksmith who commands any sympathy or semblance of a real person. It would appear Newell has devoted his time to the look, which is without fault especially the Finches of the Grove gentlemen’s club seeming to be an early Elvis appreciation society. None the less with so many versions already committed to the screen both big and small I can’t imagine this most recent take being many peoples favourite.

UK  /  Directed By: Mike Newell  /  Written By: David Nicholls  /  Starring:  Jeremy Irvine, Helena Bonham Carter, Holliday Grainger, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane  /  128min  /   Drama   /  Release: 30 November 2012 (UK/Ireland)