Great Expectations Film review

December 06, 2012

I recently went to see the new film adaptation of this wonderful book, and reviewed it for my University newspaper. Take a look if you were undecided about watching it.

Film: Great Expectations

Director: Mike Newell
Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter and Robbie Coltrane
Runtime: 128 mins
Star rating: 4 (It has been published as 3, but to be honest I found the rating impossible for the adaptation of such a classic- so the rating is pretty immaterial to me)

The canonical household name, Dickens, has developed, or rather maintained, a warm place in the hearts of the country. The festive period seems to bring a renewal of these sentiments and we experience an influx of Dickensian programmes or film adaptions. So do we really need another version?
Well no, Newell does nothing ground-breaking in adding to the plethora of adaptations, but it is more than enjoyable nonetheless. This version updates and modernises the 1946 black and white film, but fails to shape its own identity.

Most notably, it lacks the tension that should come naturally to a serialised story.
Unfortunately, as is often the case with profoundly rich novels, the ending was rushed. The film felt truncated; particularly in Miss Havisham’s fleeting death, although we are honoured with some unprecedented gore in exchange for the screen time. Characters are omitted, Pip’s generosity towards Herbert Pocket largely unexplored, equally his selfishness and ignorance towards Joe – a heart breaking emotional aspect- is underdeveloped.

The film just wasn’t poignant, emotional or affecting enough. Cruel Pip was almost absent providing a more pleasant viewing, but one awfully less moving. Joe and Pip’s relationship was initially too deliberately emphasised, only to be unforgivingly compromised in the apologetic cowering away from what should be a morally questioning passage.

Carter offered an assertive, original, and believable performance in delivering a woman whose obsession with revenge breaks the hearts of our protagonists. However, she doesn’t instill the fear that Gillian Anderson’s harrowing depiction did- and that such a disturbing character ought. Despite this, all of the acting was as good as we might expect from the experienced cast. Even Pip and Estella’s love story felt convincing and impelling.

In honesty, if this had been more adventurous it would have been condemned as butchering a literary classic. The foundations of the novel are all present they just lack the depth of which a series is capable. So if you’re in want of a Dickensian fix, an enjoyable plot, and consistently impressive acting, you can happily pass your time viewing this latest adaptation.


  1. Brilliant review, I'm still pretty excited to see it!

    1. Thank you Harri :) Yes, definitely go to watch it, I'd hate to have put anyone off! X

  2. Great film review, very well written and I am now even more eager to see it. I am absolutely obsessed with Dickens and Great Expectations is one of my favourite books, I recently received this mini book on dickens, a summary of all of his work, the book states on the first page that although many would like to, it is very rare to be able to read all of Dickens' novels in a lifetime, I am making it my ultimate goal to read all his beautiful writing! X

    1. Thank you very much Lola :)
      Oh my goodness, what an amazing goal. He wrote so much it's incredible. I remember reading some of his personal letters that were just as rich as his novels, and as hilarious!
      Good luck with your goal X

  3. You've made up my mind for me - I'm going to go and see it! It does sound quite good, and I like the way you've written this. Thank you! :)
    Lots of Love, Catherine xxx

    1. Thank you Catherine, I hope you enjoy it! Incidentally I'm reading the book at the moment :)
      Take care, lots of love Xxx

  4. Great review! I'm in love with your blog lol