Monday, May 13, 2013

Review: The Mill on the Floss (1997)

Box Art
And now I'm back to reviewing! And for my returning review: The Mill on the Floss. I had seen the 1978 miniseries of it a long time ago, but wasn't very impressed with it. Due to the sad ending, I couldn't really bring my self to like it all that much. I still wanted to see the newer version to see how it would compare, but I didn't have any great expectations for it. But I watched it and I think I did enjoy it at times.

Taken from my review of The Mill on the Floss (1978)
Mill on the Floss follows the story of Maggie and Tom Tulliver, two siblings who live at a mill by a river. When their father, Mr. Tulliver, loses the mill to Mr. Wakem, a lawyer, he suffers a stoke. Mr. Tulliver stays at the mill as Mr. Waken's manager until his death, though he despises working for Mr. Wakem. Meanwhile, Maggie grows fond of Phillip Waken, Mr. Wakem's hunchbacked son.

I only recognized two other period drama actresses in Mill on the Floss (three after looking at IMDB since Bessy Tulliver looked familiar).

Actor/ActressCharacterAlso Seen In
Emily WatsonMaggie TulliverMiss Potter as Milly Warne
Joanna DavidSophy DeanePride and Prejudice (1995) as Mrs. Gardiner
Cheryl CambellBessy TulliverThe Way We Live Now as Lady Carbury

Tom and Maggie Tulliver
It's been quite some time since I've seen Mill on the Floss (the older version, of course), but one of the things I remember was that Maggie and Tom seemed to always be fighting: it was almost as if they never really liked each other, and therefore I found it hard to like either one of them. However, in this version, you really get a sense that they do love each other. Sure, they both fought with each other throughout the story, but it seemed like there was more love between them.

Maggie in this version was a lot more likable than the older version that I saw. I found that I could relate to her more than in the older version. I think part of that has to do with the child actor they picked to be young Maggie. She was a rebel, but without her getting annoying all the time (as opposed to the 1978 version, who always seemed to be yelling about one thing or another). So from the start, I was able to like Maggie and continued to like her when she grew up.

Tom, as in the older version, always seemed to pick more fights than was necessary. I'm not quite sure what to this of this Tom, but I think I liked him better than the older version's Tom. There was almost a good and a bad side to Tom: there was the side where he was trying his best to provide for his mother and sister and then there was the side that was seeking revenge from the Wakem family (though his father made him promise against the Wakems, I think he used that as an excuse to be cruel).

Phillip Wakem, Maggie Tulliver, and Tom Tulliver
I thought the relationship between Maggie and Mr. Wakem's son, Phillip, was shown more in this version of Mill on the Floss. It was pretty definite in this version than in the older version (at least from what I remember of the older version: I remember thinking that I thought they were just friends). It added a "doomed love" dimension to the story that you wanted to succeed, but knew deep down that it was never going to work out. Spoiler What I don't like in this version was how this storyline was put to a halt and never picked up again. After a point, it was like Phillip disappeared off the face of the Earth and then the movie ended. The movie ended so abruptly that I felt like there should have been more to it (I'd count it as one of the worst endings that I've ever seen) End of Spoiler

I'd say the film quality is about the same as Persuasion (1995): there are colors (and nice colors too), but not the vibrant colors that you see in other period dramas. Scenes mostly take place around the mill the Tullivers live in, though the Deanes' (cousins on Bessy Tulliver's side) home is visited. There are also quite a few shots of the mill in motion throughout the movie: it might have been for some form of symbolism.

A Party at the Deanes' home
From looking at the costuming, I would say the story takes place (at least in the later part of the story) in the 1840s. Since the Tullivers are not rich, their clothes are not fancy (although Maggie does wear a nice party dress that I think her cousin Lucy gave her). The Deanes always have nice clothes since they are rich and comfortable.

The one thing I had an issue with for costuming was Maggie's hair: it was down way to often when she was an adult. As a child, it would have been passable for her to have her hair down, but when she was an adult, she would go outside of the house with her hair down, which an adult woman at the time would not have done.

Overall: 3/5
I gave the newer version the same rating as I did the older version that I watched (after I re-rated it). There were things that one version did better than the other: the story and plot details were better in the 1978 version, while in the newer version, the costuming, scenery, and likability of the characters were better. This is a case where I would say watch both versions if you're interested in the story line: there are things that one did better than the other that are worth seeing. This is still not my favorite story mainly because of the sad ending. I probably wouldn't see this again, but I wouldn't be opposed to seeing it again.

There really isn't any really objectionable content in this movie that I can remember. I think I would probably rate it PG maybe for "thematic elements", but there really isn't anything too bad in here.

Mill on the Floss is available on Netflix Instant Streaming (there doesn't appear to be a reasonably priced DVD available). It runs for 90 minutes.

Old-Fashioned Charm
This review is apart of the Period Drama Challenge. Come join the fun!


  1. This sounds like a really cool movie. I'm just curious if there is anything at all objectionable in here... I saw something about her cousin's fiance that I wasn't sure about. I'm kind of looking around for some good new movies right now, because we're out! Haha But we're a little strict on what we watch, so I was just wondering if there was anything at all that could be objectionable in it. :) Thanks. :D


    1. Amy,
      From what I remember, there really wasn't anything too objectionable. The thing with her cousin's fiancee was probably the most objectionable, but nothing came of it (spoiler: they nearly run off together, but she ends up returning home without anything happening). I think there were also a couple of fist fights and at the end two characters die, but that's about it. I would say that older children could watch it, but only because younger children might get bored with it.

      Let me know if you have anymore questions. :-)

  2. Didn't like this one AT ALL. So depressing and... well it has a terrible ending. Made me feel miserable and all the more sad at what the characters had went through prior, only to reach a tragic ending.

  3. I read the book this movie was based on, but I never actually got to watch an adaptation, yet. I didn't much like the book, it did not just have a sad ending, the whole story was so hopeless. Not what I'm used to from George Eliot, usually there is some happier side story at least in her books. Anyway, I still do want to watch the adaptation, I really like Emily Watson.


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