‘Great Expectations’ (1999) (TV)

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Please feel free to comment on my review.

Great Expectations with Ioan Gruffudd and Justine Waddell

This is the 1999 TV adaptation of ‘Great Expectations’. This is quite an unusual story in ‘The Charles Dickens Collection’, but I did enjoy watching it. I found it pretty atmospheric and spooky throughout.

This is divided into two episodes for the DVD. Much like the 1999 version of ‘David Copperfield’, each of the two episodes is 1½ hours in length and there was a lot to take in from seeing this story.

The story was dramatised by Tony Marchant, produced by David Snodin and directed by Julian Jarrold. ‘Great Expectations’ is one of Dickens’ famous works of literature. It was intriguing to see it.

‘Great Expectations’ starts with a young boy named Pip who grows up to be a man first as a blacksmith and then as a gentleman in London. But his fortune in life isn’t as lucky as it seems to be.

I must admit I didn’t quite understand what was going on during the first half of the story. But by the time the second half came along, I was into the story more and enjoying some of the characters too.

Most of the story is pretty bleak and eerie and there are many dark moments and scenes in houses, corridors and alleyways. It isn’t very light-hearted as many of Dickens’ works of literature are on TV.

Ioan Gruffudd stars as Pip in ‘Great Expectations’. For me, Ioan is a Welsh actor who’s done of films including the ‘Hornblower’ series, ‘102 Dalmations’ and playing Mr. Fantastic in the ‘Fantastic Four’ films.

Pip was interesting as a character in this drama. He starts a boy, played by Gabriel Thomson, who wants to be a blacksmith. By the time he is an adult, he’s had enough and wants to be a gentleman.

Gradually during the story, Pip experiences some life-changing events. They start off from being good to turning to worst, especially when he discovers who his true benefactor is and gets horrified.

Bernard Hill stars as Magwitch, a hunted criminal who Pip stumbles upon at the beginning of the story. For me, Bernard Hill played King Théoden of Rohan from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ movie trilogy.

Magwitch threatens Pip to give him food when they first meet. Later on, Pip comes to realise that Magwitch is his benefactor in being a gentleman. This is quite unusual in a character from Mr. Dickens.

Justine Waddell stars as Estella, a young woman who Pip gradually falls in love with. I’ve seen Justine before in a BBC production of ‘Wives & Daughters’ by Elizabeth Gaskell. It was nice to see her in this.


The relationship between Pip and Estella is quite unusual, since Estella as a young girl, played by Gemma Gregory, teased on Pip. Pip as a boy found Estella pretty-looking but so proud and insulting.

When they reunite as grown-ups, Pip shows Estella around London as if she was his lady-friend. But Pip finds he’s being used by Estella and finds she’s engaged to another man who he disapproves of.

And there’s Charlotte Rampling as Miss Havisham, a rich lady who adopts Estella as her daughter when Pip meets her at his house. Miss Havisham is quite an eccentric lady but looks so kindly on Pip.

The house that Miss Havisham lives in seems to be pretty and grand from the outside. But on the inside, the dining is full of rats and maggots in the food, which is pretty disturbing and horrific to see.

‘Great Expectations’ has a gothic atmosphere throughout, putting me in mind of ‘Wuthering Heights’ somehow. I enjoyed seeing this tale and I also enjoyed Ioan Gruffudd and Justine Waddell in it too.

‘Great Expectations’ (1999) rating – 7/10

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