Jude

Thomas Hardy's Jude The Obscure is as dark a vision of life as has ever been committed to the page, and this new adaptation stays almost entirely faithful to that vision. As perfectly played by Christopher Eccleston (Shallow Grave), Jude is a working-class man with scholarly ambitions thwarted by an inhospitable society. Equally good is Kate Winslet (Sense And Sensibility) as his cousin and object of desire, while director Michael Winterbottom brings an appropriately gloomy sensibility to the production. If there's a problem with Jude, it's a problem inherent in Hardy's novel: Its overwhelming fatalism almost seems sadistic in the way it stacks the deck against its protagonists. Also curious is the film's ending, which, though faithful up to that point, suddenly stops a few chapters short of its source's conclusion and narrows its scope. Nonetheless, when so many literary adaptations are content simply to provide illustrations without illumination, Jude's dark light shines.

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