Tenant of Wildfell Hall [1996]

The BBC adaptation of Anne Bronte's moral tale The Tenant of Wildfell Hall will be a delight to those who revel in classics brought to the screen. Tara Fitzgerald stars as Helen Graham, a secretive woman who seeks independence for herself and her son from her cruel husband, Arthur Huntingdon. Huntingdon, a rake taken with women and drink, is played to perfection by Rupert Graves, believable as both the young lover who seduces Helen and as the depraved and brutish man he becomes. Toby Stephens is Gilbert Markham, the suspicious yet adoring yeoman farmer smitten with the supposed widow. The scenery and costumes of this period piece are lush, although the use of flashback as a narrative device is at times jarring. This tale is darker than the Jane Austen adaptations that BBC audiences are used to, yet the two-part film has an ending satisfying enough for even the most cynical of romantics. --Jenny Brown

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