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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Return Of The Native (1994)

In rural 1842 England, a beautiful young woman (Catherine Zeta Jones) chafes at life in a dull backward village and longs to see the world. She sets her sights on an innkeeper (Clive Owen) who is betrothed to another woman (Claire Skinner) but who has promised to take her to Paris. But when a former inhabitant (Ray Stevenson) of the village returns from Paris where he lives, she seizes this chance to escape from her boring existence. Unfortunately, it brings tragedy to all. Based on the 1878 novel by Thomas Hardy, the film is faithful to Hardy's book in spirit if not the letter. Hardy's women (like Tess, Bathsheba and Eustacia here) are victims of circumstance, of their own desires which ultimately destroys if not them, those around them. I wish this had a stronger script and a better director because as it is it plays like one of those dull but tasteful BBC "masterpiece theater" adaptations of classic novels by Dickens, Austen or Zola. It benefits from being shot on location in Devon(shire) but there's no sense of a destiny that inexplicably pulls its protagonists toward their fate no matter how hard they try to escape it. Physically, Zeta Jones is perfect in the role but she never quite inhabits it. A respectable adaptation but it should have been more than that. The strong underscore by Carl Davis helps it along. Directed by Jack Gold (THE NAKED CIVIL SERVANT). With Joan Plowright, Steven Mackintosh and Celia Imrie.

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