by Jane Austen
|Written by||Simon Burke|
|Directed by||Adrian Shergold|
|Theme music composer||Martin Phipps|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Running time||92 minutes|
Persuasion is a 2007 British television film adaptation of Jane Austen's 1817 novel Persuasion. It was directed by Adrian Shergold and the screenplay was written by Simon Burke. Sally Hawkins stars as the protagonist Anne Elliot, while Rupert Penry-Jones plays Frederick Wentworth. Eight years prior to the film's beginning, Anne was persuaded to reject Wentworth's proposal of marriage. Now 27 and unmarried, Anne re-encounters Wentworth, who has made his fortune in the Napoleonic Wars and is looking for a wife—anyone but Anne, whom he has not forgiven for rejecting him all those years ago.
Persuasion was one of three novels adapted in 2007 for ITV's Jane Austen season. It was the first of the three adaptations to begin development. The drama was co-produced by Clerkenwell Films and American studio WGBH Boston. Persuasion premiered on 1 April 2007 in the United Kingdom and was watched by 5.4 million viewers. Persuasion received positive reviews from television critics.
The Elliot family faces financial difficulties from the imprudent spending of Sir Walter Elliot and his eldest daughter, Elizabeth. An advisor proposes the family estate of Kellynch Hall be leased to Admiral Croft, home from the Napoleonic Wars; Anne Elliot is distraught at the prospect.
The admiral is married to the sister of Captain Frederick Wentworth, to whom Anne was engaged eight years earlier. Then-Commander Wentworth was penniless and without a ship at the outset of a very dangerous career, and the union was discouraged by Anne's father and Lady Russell, a family friend who persuaded Anne to break off the engagement. Years later, Anne is seemingly past the age of desirability, while Wentworth has risen in the Royal Navy and is rich in prize money.
Sir Walter and Elizabeth depart for Bath, leaving Anne to care for her younger sister Mary Musgrove in nearby Uppercross. There, Wentworth comes to visit his sister at Kellynch Hall, making friends with the Musgroves. Anne and Wentworth meet again, but he appears cold and distant and she is convinced he will never forgive her, nor love her again. Her disappointment is heightened by the attention the captain is paid by young Louisa and Henrietta Musgrove. Wentworth declares his intention to travel to Lyme to visit his friends, Captains Harry Harville and James Benwick, and they all decide to go.
In Lyme, Benwick has been inconsolable since the death of his fiancée while he was away at the Cape, and spends his days reading dark poetry and lamenting his loss. A match for him in reading and familiar with loss and disappointment, Anne is able to encourage Benwick; though he warms in his outlook toward life and to Anne, her heart remains with Captain Wentworth.
In a dangerous demonstration of steadfastness, Louisa jumps from the Cobb and strikes her head against the stones. Unconscious and bleeding, she is taken to Harville's home to recover. Wentworth, Anne, and Henrietta return to Uppercross to inform the Musgroves of Louisa's injury, and Anne and the captain bid each other a seemingly final farewell.
Anne joins her father and sister in Bath to find her family have been receiving the attentions of Mr. Elliot, a distant cousin who will inherit the Elliot estate and title. He is wealthy and very gracious to the Elliots, and Anne finds herself the subject of his interest, but detects a false note in his manner.
While Louisa recovers, Wentworth realises his feelings towards Anne are unchanged, but Harville informs him that an attachment is assumed between Wentworth and Louisa. Dismayed, Wentworth takes Harville's advice to leave and visit his brother. Returning a few weeks later, he learns that Louisa and Benwick are engaged. Delighted at this turn of events, Wentworth goes to Bath under the pretext of visiting his sister.
There, Captain Wentworth learns Mr. Elliot has been courting Anne. Having heard rumour of Mr. Elliot's proposal, Admiral Croft sends Wentworth to notify Anne that if she and her new husband desire to reside at Kellynch Hall, he would be happy to forego the lease. To Wentworth's surprise, Anne tells him the Admiral is mistaken, as she has not consented to marry Mr. Elliot. They are interrupted by the arrival of Lady Russell and, in the confusion of new arrivals, are unable to speak. Wentworth slips away and writes Anne a note, confessing his long held love and his desire to marry her.
Anne gets free and runs after the captain, but cannot find him. She meets her good friend Mrs. Smith, who informs her Mr. Elliot has been false: he desires the baronetcy and, once married to Anne, planned to establish Mrs. Clay as his mistress. This would prevent Mrs. Clay's marriage to Anne's father and the potential birth of a male heir which would cut off Mr. Elliot's inheritance. Anne comes across Captain Harvill, who passes her Wentworth's note.
Running along the Royal Crescent, Anne finally finds Wentworth, and accepts his proposal. Wentworth asks if she is sure, and Anne replies that she has never been more determined in her life, and kisses him.
- Sally Hawkins as Anne Elliot
- Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Frederick Wentworth
- Anthony Head as Sir Walter Elliot
- Julia Davis as Elizabeth Elliot
- Alice Krige as Lady Russell
- Tobias Menzies as Mr. William Elliot, Anne's wealthy distant cousin
- Michael Fenton Stevens as Mr. Shepherd
- Mary Stockley as Mrs. Clay
- Joseph Mawle as Captain Harry Harvill
- Finlay Robertson as Captain James Benwick
- Nicholas Farrell as Mr. Musgrove
- Amanda Hale as Mary Musgrove, Anne's sister
- Sam Hazeldine as Charles Musgrove
- Jennifer Higham as Louisa Musgrove
- Rosamund Stephen as Henrietta Musgrove
- Peter Wight as Admiral Croft
- Marion Bailey as Mrs. Croft, Frederick's sister
- Maisie Dimbleby as Mrs. Smith
- Sarah Buckland as Nurse Rooke
- Tilly Tremayne as Vicountess Dalrymple
Conception and adaptation
On 10 November 2005, The Guardian's Julia Day reported ITV controller of drama, Nick Elliott, had ordered three new adaptations of Mansfield Park, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion. Elliot commented that the adaptations would be "important remakes for the new generation". He explained "About every 10 years, all the great stories need retelling. These films will be very much 2007 films... we've asked and pushed the production team to make them young." Screenwriter Simon Burke created the convention of a diary to aide the audience in understanding the intense feelings of loss the outwardly reserved Anne Elliot was going through. Using small parts of Austen's narration, he placed it in the hand of Anne. After much reading and research, Hawkins came to view the character of Anne Elliot as a view of Jane Austen herself. With Hawkins over-voicing the diary entries the person of Jane Austen is brought to life. This, coupled with Director Adrian Shergold having Anne occasionally break the Fourth wall lent a sense of intimacy between the audience and the lead character, and with Jane Austen. Galer made Anne's outfits simple and basic because she does not join in Bath society.
Elliott revealed that he had deliberately shied away from ordering adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility to focus on Austen's lesser known works. Each of the three productions created during the Jane Austen Season were made by a different company, cast and director, so they each had "a distinct look".
Karen Price from the Western Mail reported ITV had promised the "cream of British acting talent", while they were casting the three adaptations. Actress Sally Hawkins was asked to play Persuasion's protagonist Anne Elliot. Hawkins was familiar with Austen from school, and though flattered to be asked to play the role, she was initially hesitant about returning to Austen. "I re-read the books and fell in love with Jane Austen completely... I had been slightly dismissive, and the fact that I was dismissive is shameful to me now. It's like being dismissive of Dickens or Beckett. Her work had never really come into my world before and I'm so glad it has." Having re-read all of Austen's works, she researched deeper, reading the author's personal letters and biographies. Speaking to The Independent's Amy Raphael, Hawkins explained "Jane was an incredible woman. She was only in her early forties when she died. I became convinced that Persuasion was about her own love life; Anne Elliot took the wrong advice and left the man who turned out to be the love of her life. She is the type of woman you'd like to be: reserved, refined, funny. I totally fell in love with her."
On 17 September 2006, the Western Mail's Nathan Bevan revealed that Spooks actor Rupert Penry-Jones had joined the cast as Captain Wentworth. The role was Penry-Jones' first lead part in a costume drama. He remarked, "In modern drama everything is so overt. In period drama it's all held in. You have to find ways to show the feelings straining beneath the surface." The actor added that he enjoyed playing Wentworth "because, beyond his social grace and charm, there's a bitterness and sadness because the love of his life, Anne Elliot, rejected him." Five days later, it was announced that Julia Davis and Anthony Head would be appearing as Elizabeth Elliot and Sir Walter Elliot respectively.
The costume designer for Persuasion was Andrea Galer. Galer made Anne's outfits simple and basic because she does not join in Bath society. The designer explained "I wanted her to look in tune with nature. Because we were shooting in winter, I could go for faded autumnal colours for her. She gets Wentworth back just by her stillness and I wanted to reflect that in her wardrobe." Galer designed a jacket for Hawkins to wear as Anne using a 19th-century shawl, which she mounted and patched together with a cross stitch. She used hand loom fabric from India and the Sri Lanakan crafted Beeralu lace to decorate some of the garments. In 2008, costumes from Persuasion went on display at the Jane Austen Centre in Bath. The exhibition included creations worn by Anne, Lady Russell and the Musgrove sisters. Four years later, many of the costumes from Persuasion and Miss Austen Regrets were sold in an online auction organised by the Jane Austen Centre. Galer admitted that while it was difficult to part with them, it was time to move on and she hoped they had been bought because of their association with the Austen films. Galer commented "It was difficult to do but I did it. I suppose the one outfit that did sell that I would've been happy if it hadn't was the Harris tweed jacket and dress worn by Sally Hawkins when she played Anne Elliot in Persuasion."
Persuasion was the first of the three adaptations to begin development. For director, ITV hired Adrian Shergold, known for working on "gritty" films such as Pierrepoint (2005). Producer David Snodin explained, "Bringing Adrian on board is a statement in itself because he is not known for doing conventional versions of the classics. It is a lot to do with the way he likes the camera to move – it's right in on people's faces – and he is creating something much more contemporary than you'd expect." Shergold agreed to direct Persuasion only after learning Hawkins' was playing Anne Elliot. He said, "She inhabits every inch of the characters she plays."
The film was scored by Martin Phipps.
Promotion and broadcast
ITV launched a nationwide campaign to promote its Jane Austen Season. The campaign included three television adverts and cinema, outdoor and press adverts. ITV Creative made the 20, 30 and 60 second promotional trailers, which began airing on ITV channels from 25 February 2007. The following day, adverts began appearing in selected national press publications. The outdoor and press adverts were created by M&C Saatchi, while MindShare carried out the media buying.
Persuasion was the third of the Austen adaptations to be shown in the UK. It was broadcast on ITV at 9:00 pm on 1 April 2007. The drama aired on the TVOntario channel in Canada on 30 December 2007. Persuasion was shown on 13 January 2008 on the US channel PBS as part of their Austen Masterpiece Theatre series. On 8 June, the film was broadcast on Australia's ABC1 channel.
Persuasion was well received by audiences, attracting 6.2 million viewers and a 26.1% audience share upon its initial broadcast in the United Kingdom. 939,000 Australian viewers watched the drama when it aired on ABC1 in June 2008. Four newspaper publications selected the drama as their "Pick of the Day." The period drama has an 80% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Critics compared the production with previous renditions of Persuasion and with other productions of well known Austen works. The Daily Post chose Persuasion as "the best of the three offerings in this series." However, Matthew Gilbert of The Boston Globe opined that the adaptation "pale[d] in comparison with the extraordinary 1995 version." David Wiegand of the San Francisco Chronicle expressed strong dissatisfaction with the adaptation, especially when compared to the 1995 Pride and Prejudice series and the 1996 production of Emma.
The performance by Hawkins was well received by most. Variety noted Persuasion "offers an appealing heroine, with Hawkins proving especially vulnerable as the passive Anne, who again risks letting a lifetime of happiness slip away from her." Conversely, the Irish Independent's John Boland called Hawkins the "crucial flaw" of the production. Boland continued, "She looked suitably guarded and gauche at the outset but then chose, and was allowed, to become increasingly gormless, so that long before the end you were left wondering what on earth Captain Wentworth had ever seen in this open-mouthed, inarticulate eejit. It was the worst piece of miscasting since Tom Cruise was asked to impersonate an icy hit-man in Collateral." The Age thought Penry-Jones too handsome for the role of Captain Wentworth.
Awards and nominations
Persuasion garnered a nomination for Best Drama at the 2007 Prix Italia. For her portrayal of Anne Elliot, Hawkins was named Best Actress at the Royal Television Society Awards and she won the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Film award at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival. Davis and Krige also received nominations in the same category, while Head and Penry-Jones were both nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Television Film. At the 2007 RTS Craft & Design Awards, Kevin Horsewood won the Best Visual Effects – Picture Enhancement award. Shergold earned a nomination in the Director of Fiction/Entertainment category at the 2008 British Academy Television Craft Awards.
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