Thursday, February 4, 2010

Film Review: Little Dorrit and He Knew He Was Right

Sorry about my momentary disappearance this week. It wasn't necessarily a "crazy" week, but I was rarely home this week, and don't generally post reviews from work. Not only did I have a strange schedule last week, but I also ended the week with a good friend coming into town on Friday night. Regardless, it was a great week...even if I am a bit behind on reviews!

Having said that about my schedule, one thing that has been pretty interesting to me in having a book blog, is the tendencies I have in reading and viewing. Yes, I was a bit clueless about the extent of my interests. Why I was unaware of my Regency/Victorian interests, I'll never know. There we have it though. Having said that, I recently watched two films that I've had on my list to watch, both from BBC.

Little Dorrit is a remake of Charles Dickens' novel by the same name. About a girl named Amy Dorrit, whose family had been forced into debtor's prison, the story draws in Arthur Clennam, a rich young man who has returned from being at sea for 15 years. Played by Pride and Prejudice's Mathew McFadden, Arthur Clennam returns home to announce the death of his father, and to try to solve the family issues that seemed to plague his father on his death bed. Arthur's problems arise as his mother wants little to do with her son, and leaves their family's life a complete mystery to him. Because of this, Arthur tries to solve the mystery behind his mother's secrets and his father's shame, only to determine that they had something to do with the Dorrit's current position in debtor's prison.

Arthur visits the Dorrits, becomes friends with Amy, and resolves to help them out of their current life. In this process, Amy falls in love with him. Arthur is clueless to this, and over years, and eventual release from prison, Amy has to move on with her life.

Review: Little did I realize how LONG this movie was going to be! I had checked it out from the library, and found that it took days for me to get through each two-disk set I checked out. In the beginning, it moved rather slowly, and even after good things start to happen for young Amy, you still get a sense that there is a lot left to reveal in the story. The movie is sweet, and revealing of characters and cultures of the time period, as is common for Dickens' work. If you enjoy lengthy character sketches, this is perfect. I can't say that I didn't enjoy it, but didn't feel that I needed the "serialized" descriptions of everyone's lives. I did like the film, don't get me wrong. The length of the film, and time it took to get around to Amy's life just takes a bit of a time investment!

In the second film I watched, He Knew He Was Right, I have to be honest in saying that it took me a couple of weeks before I let that Netflix call my name and picked it up. Boy was that one film I shouldn't have held off watching! Based on Anthony Trollope's novel by the same name, it is about a man and his young, beautiful wife and the jealousy that came up between them shortly into their marriage. Set in the Victorian era, with its social mores and strict rules on appropriate behavior, the husband finds that he cannot handle his wife's relationship with her father's friend. The wife cannot convince her husband that nothing is going on between them, and she resents the fact that he does not believe her, trust her, nor even allow her to continue seeing him. The family friend is not completely innocent in this story, pushing the husband's buttons because he finds the entire thing silly himself. Ultimately, Trollope asks us to question where the lines are in a marriage, and what one should ask or not ask of their spouse.

Review: Let me say how ironic it is that I watched this film so close on the heels of reading Shannon Hale's The Actor and the Housewife, because both pieces seem to challenge the idea of friends within a marriage. In the case of the Victorian era, there really isn't ANY room. The husband feels deeply hurt that his wife can't see his discomfort, and the wife is deeply hurt that her husband doesn't trust her. In the end, I thought this was an amazing, thought-provoking film. It's easy to see how pride broke these characters apart, and yet you can also see how people on the outside of the marriage should respect it. Although not a feel-good film, I thought this was a great period drama.


  1. Well, Dickens and Trollope. Good pair of great Victorian writers! I've seen but never read nor reviewed Little Dorrit. I've just added HE KNEW HE WAS RIGHT to my tbw list. I've just got the DVD. Have you ever seen the other BBC adaptation of Trollope, THE WAY WE LIVE NOW? I liked it a lot. It stars a young Matthew McFadyen and other very good British actors. Good reviews, thanks for sharing.

  2. I saw the end of Little Dorrit and enjoyed it. I wonder if I would have liked it as much if I had to sit through the whole thing?

  3. I recently watched Little Dorrit and I agree it is rather long! I did enjoy it though. I have the book on my TBR list, but it's a long book as well. I always felt that the length of the movie has to do with it being an adaptation of a Dickens novel. I'm not a great expert on Dickens, but I think that's part of the reasons why I often find it hard to pick up a novel by him.

  4. I watched Little Dorrit (or Wittle Dor'it, as I insist on pronouncing it) when it first aired on PBS. I agree with you--that was a looooooong show. Like damn. I liked the beginning, but by the end I just didn't care that much that much anymore.