“The Mayor of Casterbridge” (2003)



Are some actions simply unforgivable?  Can someone truly change his/her nature?  These are the central questions posed in The Mayor of Casterbridge, a very engaging A&E miniseries from 2003.  The stars are: intense/commanding Ciaran Hinds (Persuasion; Jane Eyre), handsome/charming James Purefoy (Vanity Fair; Rome), unconventional/poised Jodhi May (The Last of the Mohicans; Daniel Deronda), and mysteriously pretty Polly Walker.  It is an adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s novel; it follows the book very closely (as several viewers/readers noted on IMDB).  Everything is top-notch in this film: acting, pacing, costumes, and music (creating the right mood for Hardy, but is never too much).     

 If you thought the premise of Tess was a shocker, check this out!  At a country fair, jobless/angry/drunken Daniel Henchard (Hinds) sells his wife and baby daughter for a few coins.  When he sobers up, he can’t believe what he’s done.  He runs into a chapel, grabs the Bible, and swears to not drink for 21 years.     

About 19 years later, Henchard’s wife Susan (Juliet Aubrey) and her grown-up daughter, Elizabeth Jane (May) set out to find him.  Susan says she is a widow and refers to her husband as “a relation by marriage.”  She is shocked to learn how “high” he has become when they reach Casterbridge; Susan spies Henchard (wearing the mayoral robe and medal) inside his fine house.  The mayor sees the ladies also, and decides to take action to make up for the “terrible deed.”        


Farfrae (James Purefoy), the optimistic Scotsman the mayor confides in.
Donald Farfrae (James Purefoy)


On the same night that his family comes to town, Henchard meets an optimistic Scotsman, Donald Farfrae (Purefoy), who has developed a technique to restore bad grain.  The mayor persuades Farfrae to become his manager, and he also confides in the younger man.  Later on, Henchard grows terribly jealous of Farfrae- an even-tempered, fair-minded man (unlike the mayor).  Just as in Hardy’s other works (i.e. Far from the Maddening Crowd, Jude the Obscure, and Tess of the D’Urbervilles) you will find lies, mysterious letters, sudden revelations, strong females, and a lot of drama. There are secrets at every turn in this story, so check it out for yourself!    

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