It is only a matter of time before Fanny digs her claws into the budding friendship of these two young people. Once that happens, Mrs. Dashwood whisks her girls away to Barton Cottage, offered by a distant relative, Sir John Middleton (Mark Williams). Though it is less than they expect, and the company offered by Sir John and his busybody mother-in-law Mrs. Jennings (Linda Bassett) seems a little much to bear, the four have soon settled in.
This is where we finally meet Colonel Brandon (David Morrissey) and Willoughby (Dominic Cooper), two of my favorite men that Austen ever created. While Edward is quiet and endearing, these two have elements of the dark and mysterious about them: Colonel Brandon and his doomed love affair from his youth, and Willoughby with his libertine ways. They make for compelling reading. When they come alive on the screen, they’re hard to tear your eyes from.
Marianne inevitably falls in love with Willoughby just as Colonel Brandon falls in love with Marianne. Here you are treated to a clear view of the sisters and how one concentrates on sense and the other sensibility. Marianne believes no strong emotion should ever be concealed, and faces the consequences of her forward actions.
If you are a fan, you already know the ending. If not, I refuse to spoil it for you. All I will say is the bad end unhappily and the good happily, with all good things coming to those who wait. Even though you know the end (some of you), like who ends up with whom, it is still a pleasure to watch it unfold in this fresh, younger version.
I love the Steele sisters in this adaptation, especially the big-mouthed sister of Lucy, Miss Steele (Daisy Haggard). For me, Miss Steele stole the scenes in which she appeared. Daisy Haggard was bright and funny with some of the best lines in the whole production, and she played her character to perfection.
I enjoy Jane Austen for the complexity - the mix of manners and desires, of saving face while your heart is breaking. It’s a complex dance that is sometimes hard to bring successfully to the screen, but Andrew Davies, who also wrote the screenplay for the much loved Pride and Prejudice, with Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle, has made a successful attempt.