Jane Austen’s Sense And Sensibility

BBC Warner / 174 minutes / 2 disc set / Region 1 NTSC

Featuring Hattie Morahan, Charity Wakefield, Dan Stevens, Janet McTeer, Mark Williams

Andrew Davies is the main man it seems these days when it comes to the lavish TV costume drama, over the years he has famously sexed up any number of period works including most momentously Pride and Prejudice with a star making dip in the lake for Colin Firth. Here, in this BBC mini series, seen at Christmas last year, he works his magic to great effect.

The end is in the beginning here as a caddish lover abandons the young woman he has just seduced. An act that has some serious repercussions for all the major players. Essentially S and S (which incidentally was the first of Austen’s novels to be published) is the story of two sisters Elinor (Hattie Morahan) and Marianne (the excellently named Charity Wakefield who herself sounds like she could have emerged from the pages of an Austen novel. Early on the girls are left penniless after the death of the father (the wonderful Mark Gatiss as elder brother John inherits the entire estate). Marianne though is more than caught up in having not just one suitor but two in the shape of David Morrissey’s Colonel Brandon and Dominic Cooper’s slightly more dashing Willoughby.

Like all of Austen’s stories, Sense and Sensibility is concerned with the feelings of being in love but in an era where codes of etiquette were all and morals were tantamount if you were of a certain class this was often a veritable battlefield to make your way across.

Gorgeously filmed and very sumptuous, this is period drama at its very best, wonderful casting, beautiful production design, lovely costumes, you get the idea, this is top quality stuff.

The two disc set, which has great packaging, made to look like a book, features a great bonus disc in the shape of new BBC drama Miss Austen Regrets which stars Olivia Williams as Austen and tells the story of her actually quite short life (she was only 41 when she died) through her writings and her letters, the sad fact being that although she is considered the leading light on matters of the heart she herself never married, although at the age of 21 she did fall for a visiting friend of neighbours although once his holiday was over she never saw him again, later a friend of the family did propose and she accepted but withdrew it the next day (it would have purely been a marriage of convenience). Austen’s life is actually quite sad, constrained by the time she lived in and lack of opportunities for women and Williams captures that melancholic feeling down to a tee. This is no simple special feature though, this is a large scale production and besides Williams the cast also includes Greta Scacchi, Hugh Bonneville and Phyllida Law. A brilliant companion then to Sense and a definite must see.

Extras on the set include an audio commentary from cast and crew members, interviews with producer Anne Pivcevic and Andrew Davies, a photo gallery and best of all a radio play focusing on Remembering Jane Austen.