This determinedly non-heritage adaptation of Thomas Hardy's Jude the Obscure is an often impressive but oddly frustrating movie. Mostly, it's faithful to the story of the lowly but academically ambitious Wessex stonemason (Eccleston) who, after a disastrous marriage to Arabella (Griffiths), daughter of a pig farmer, heads off to the university town of Christminster, where he falls for his strong-willed, comparatively worldly-wise cousin Sue (Winslet). Somehow, however, the film never delivers the punch deserved by one of the 19th century's most movingly cruel English novels. Part of the trouble is that, in trying to cram Hardy's narrative into a mere two hours, Hossein Amini's brisk screenplay rarely does more than skate over the key dramatic moments. The leads, too, lack the chemistry to render the tragic outcome of Jude and Sue's socially unacceptable amour fou as devastating as it should be; Eccleston is too relentlessly 'intense' for Jude to seem a truly attractive prospect, while Winslet's Sue is such a thoroughly modern miss that she finally fails to convince. Eduardo Serra's 'Scope camerawork is eye-catching, and the film is never stilted, but it's hard to see how its emphasis on being 'modern' make the content really relevant to today. Ambitious, sensitive, but ultimately uninvolving.
Cast and crew