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Great Expectations (DQ)


Stars: Jeremy Irvine, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane, Jason Flemyng, Holliday Grainger, David Walliams, Sally Hawkins, Ewen Bremner, Olly Alexander, Tamzin Outhwaite, Toby Irvine, Ben Lloyd-Hughes

Director: Mike Newell

You really can't go far wrong with Charles Dickens' famous tale of a seemingly hopeless love and a mysterious benefactor and, apart from a rather soft ending, reliable old hand Mike Newell certainly doesn't disappoint us.

As a boy, Pip (Toby Irvine), reared by his older sister (an unrecognisable Hawkins) and her blacksmith husband Joe (Flemyng, almost erasing memories of Bernard Miles), helps a starving escaped convict (Fiennes - fine, but insufficiently scary at the beginning, and by no means as ideally cast as Ray Winstone in the 2011 TV version) in the marshes nearby; the man is later recaptured.

Invited to a big mansion by the eccentric Miss Havisham (Bonham Carter) to play with her attractive sub-teen ward Estella (Helena Barlow), Pip lasts only a few visits after Miss H sees Estella is attracted to him rather than out to break his heart.

Grown, Pip (now Jeremy Irvine) comes into a large fortune, dispensed from his London office by the corpulent solicitor Jaggers (Coltrane), whose housekeeper Molly (Outhwaite) harbours one of the many secrets the story keeps hidden in its cupboard.

Despite the friendship of his apartment companion Herbert Pocket (Alexander), Pip soon becomes snooty and profligate (although Irvine drops his 'country' accent rather too quickly for conviction), running up exorbitant bills and treating Joe like a peasant when he comes to visit.

Then Dickens skilfully skirts improbability as he knits the various threads of the tale together, as all the events and characters are proven to be interwoven.

The contrast between the posh and squalid areas of London is well re-created, much in the manner of Hollywood of yore, while performances are sturdy and forthright and, in the case of Flemyng, outstanding - the eyes speaking volumes when he feels rejected. Although she chews the scenery a bit, Bonham Carter is still a memorable Miss Havisham, and the only weakness in characterisation lies in Fiennes' nemesis being insufficiently delineated.

David Quinlan

UK 2012. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Technicolor.
129 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 26 Nov 2012