Monday, December 6, 2010

Review: Daniel Deronda

Hey everyone. Here is this week's review, however I might take a little break from reviews for a week or two: I have a couple of last papers due and finals are coming up. Hopefully once Christmas break starts, things will calm down and I'll start up on the reviews again. I'll try to post in the upcoming couple of weeks, but it depends on how busy I am. In the meanwhile, enjoy the review!

I have seen the preview for Daniel Deronda in a couple of DVDs. It was the third my mom and I watched in The George Eliot Collection. We were interested in seeing it because Romola Garai (who was Emma Woodhouse in Emma) was in it. Here are some of my thoughts.
Box Art

At a casino in Germany, Gwendolyn Harleth (Romola Garai), as she is gambling away her money, notices a man. This man, she finds out, is Daniel Deronda (Hugh Dancy), the supposed illegitimate son of the rich Sir Hugo Mallinger.

The story flashes back to when Gwendolen's family moved to a new neighborhood. She meets Mr. Grandcourt (Hugh Bonneville), who proposes marriage to her shortly after meeting her. Gwendolen accepts, but upon finding out that he has a mistress and children with her, she leaves for Germany and goes to the casino where she meets Daniel Deronda.

Daniel Deronda, meanwhile, doesn't know what to do with his life yet. One day, as he was boating, he saves a Jewish girl from drowning; her name is Mirah Lapidoth (Johdi May). Mirah has recently come back to England after being taken away by her father to look for her mother and brother. Daniel is determined to help her.
Daniel Deronda (Hugh Dancy), Gwendolen (Romola Garai),
and Mr. Grandcourt (Hugh Bonneville).
There are some actors that can be recognized that are in Daniel Deronda: Romola Garai (Emma) as Gwendolen, Hugh Dancy (Ella Enchanted) as Daniel Deronda, Amanda Root (Persuasion) as Mrs. Davilow, David Bamber (Pride and Prejudice (1995)) as Lush, even Anna Popplewell (Chronicles of Narnia) as a brief speaking role as Fanny Davilow.
The characters are a mixed bag. On the one hand, you have likable characters like Daniel and Mirah, but on the other hand, characters like Gwendolen are irritating and characters like Mr. Grandcourt are to be hated.

Gwendolen is pretty irritating throughout the whole miniseries: she acts arrogant, and Spoiler marries Mr. Grandcourt because he is rich and because she doesn't want to be a governess. End of Spoiler  I'm sorry, but she pretty much walked into all of her troubles. It was pretty much her fault: she tried to control a situation and she never had control at all

It was interesting to see the Jewish society in Daniel Deronda. You usually don't see that perspective in other period dramas. With characters like Mordecai and Mirah, you get a perspective of the Jewish people in 1870's England.

Gwendolen and Mr. Grandcourt talking
at an archery contest.

There are some very nice country scenes, and some of the Italy scenes look quite nice too. Some of the overtones to certain scenes were a little darker and drearier than others due to certain aspects of the story being more serious than others. Scenes ranged from country houses and the surrounding areas, manor houses, the Jewish neighborhood in London, and a sea resort town in Italy.

There are some very nice costumes in Daniel Deronda. What is interesting is that the book, from what I've read (as I have never read the book), is supposed to take place in the 1860's; during the 1860's, the crinoline (or hoop skirt) was the fashionable thing to wear. However, in this miniseries, the story takes place in the 1870's when the bustle was the fashionable thing to wear. So, the costumes here utilized the bustle rather than the crinoline.

Gwendolen dressed very nicely, but considering that her family had some money, she could afford it. Her archery dress is very striking: the creamy white and red colors seemed to work very well. However, I didn't really like the dark purple one that she wears later in the miniseries; the color did not complement her skin. Excepting the purple dress, her other outfits were pretty and elegant.

Mirah's dresses were not as striking as Gwendolen's, but considering she is not as rich as Gwendolen, it is understandable. Her dresses were plainer and had darker colors. They were made out of much simpler material than Gwendolen's dresses.

Mirah Lapidoth (Johdi May), the singer.


There is quite a bit of singing, considering Mirah is a singer; she sings opera music in foreign languages, and they sounded nice. Gwendolen also sings, and as a part of the story she later wants to become a singer, but she was told that she was too old to start singing; because of that, she couldn't become a singer. Her voice wasn't bad at all, but compared to Mirah's voice, it was small in comparison.
Overall: 3/5
While not the worst period drama that I've seen, Daniel Deronda isn't the best. There are some positives such as the likeable characters (Daniel, Mirah, etc.) that keep you hoping throughout the story that everything will turn out well for them, lovely scenery to look at, and some of the singing is nice. However, there are some negatives. Gwendolen's character is quite irritating, and though you feel sorry for her at times, you still feel that she had some hand in her suffering. There are some adult scenes and implications, so this is probably not the best thing to show to children. There is a little violence, and a couple of people die (though not through the violence).

Daniel Deronda is available on DVD either in The George Eliot Collection, or just on it's own. It runs for 210 minutes. There are three episodes on one disk.


  1. I love your reviews, they seem to cover just about everything! :) I'm going to ask Mom if we can watch this, I know you said it wasn't your best ever movie, but the characters in it, like the 1995 Mr. Collins, Anne Elliot, Susan (Anna Popplewell) etc sounded cool. :)

  2. Thank you! When my mom and I were watching this, we didn't recognize Mr. Collins until the last episode, and it was only because I noticed his name in the credits for the second episode. Seeing the different actors and actress from different period dramas was interesting (you get to see both Romola Garai and Johdi May who were both in Emma).

    It's an okay miniseries, but it's not my favorite. I liked the plot surrounding Daniel better than the plot surrounding Gwendolen mainly because the Gwendolen plot was really heavy and there were a couple of scenes that were a little mature (they were fairly short, though). It's fairly inexpensive on Amazon if you wanted to look there.

  3. Lovely review! I agree, it's not the best period drama, but the costumes and scenery are lovely! I do like how the story ends, especially with the letter that Gwendolen writes to Daniel. Every time I watch this I come to admire the character of Daniel Deronda more and more! Hugh Dancy also sings in this film which is rather good (still not sure if it was his own voice or not). The lullaby Mirah sings is so beautiful, it brings me to tears every time! :)

  4. I enjoyed this one very much. I'm looking forward to watching more period dramas, your reviews are great! Thankyou!
    Beth xxx


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