‘OUR MUTUAL FRIEND’ (1998)
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Our Mutual Friend with Paul McGann and Keeley Hawes
This is the 1998 TV adaptation of ‘Our Mutual Friend’ by Charles Dickens. ‘Our Mutual Friend’ was the last completed work by Charles Dickens before he died in 1870. I enjoyed this Dickens story via this TV production since it is a clever story that’s pretty grim and dark combining two unique worlds.
The drama serial is divided into four one hour and fifteen minute episodes. ‘Our Mutual Friend’ was adapted by Sandy Welch, was produced by Catherine Wearing and directed by Julian Faring. There is much cover in this TV adaptation and many interesting characters interconnecting with each other.
Also this story features a superb cast full of faces that I recognise from other TV productions and films, most notably from ‘Doctor Who’. I was amazed from seeing how many faces I recognised in this drama of ‘Our Mutual Friend’ and there are so many dramatic moments that I enjoyed watching.
The story of ‘Our Mutual Friend’ is about the character of John Harmon, who horrifically drowned in the river Thames. Throughout the story, many characters become involved with the supposed death of John Harmon. But is there a game or cunning plot occurring for John Harmon throughout the tale?
The theme of this story features the inclusion of the river, most notably the river Thames. Dickens associates the river Thames as a character since the working classes in the area become a connection with some of those in the higher classes of London at the time during that Victorian age.
I enjoyed the combination of the higher classes and working classes featured in Dickens’ London during the story. It’s all very pleasant and beneficial with the higher classes with lives of money and status. Meanwhile it’s pretty unpleasant and bog-standard with the working classes by the Thames.
There was a lot about ‘Our Mutual Friend’ that I didn’t understand fully from my early viewings of this TV drama. But having re-watched a number of times and from asking questions about the story, I was able to gain a better understanding and enjoy some of the characters’ motivations during the story.
The John Harmon aspects of the story were very appealing and interesting for me to watch. John Harmon takes the disguise of John Rokesmith and sets out on his intentions to win the love of his life, Bella Wilfer. The love story of John Rokesmith and Bella Wilfer is my favourite part of the story.
There is also another love story occurring in ‘Our Mutual Friend’ and that is between Lizzie Hexam and Eugene Wrayburn. It’s not a major part of the John Harmon tale, but it connects with the river Thames, especially as Lizzie is a river girl with her father and Eugene comes from the higher classes.
Another major theme of ‘Our Mutual Friend’ is the prospects of status and gaining money. The tagline for this TV drama states; ‘love in a city where class governs all’. This is something that Bella Wilfer gets challenged on during the story as she chooses between a love of money and a life of love.
Paul McGann stars as Eugene Wrayburn, the romantic hero for Lizzie Hexam in this story. For me, Paul McGann is the Eighth Doctor in ‘Doctor Who’. Paul starred in ‘Our Mutual Friend’ two years after he did ‘The TV Movie’ in 1996. I saw Paul in ‘Our Mutual Friend’ before I saw him ‘Doctor Who’.
Keeley Hawes stars as Lizzie Hexam, the river girl and romantic interest for Eugene Wrayburn. I saw Keeley Hawes in another BBC TV period drama called ‘Wives and Daughters’. She was different in that and it was nice to see Keeley play this honest and nice lady who is used to working on the river.
Anna Friel stars as Bella Wilfer, the young woman born into poverty who becomes betrothed to John Harmon. Bella is a beautiful young woman who at first wants money and not love. She rejects John Rokesmith’s feelings for her at first, but she soon stands up for him when Mr. Boffin is nasty to him.
Steven Mackintosh stars as John Rokesmith/John Harmon in this TV drama. Steven Mackintosh also starred briefly in the ‘Doctor Who’ story ‘Timelash’ with Colin Baker and was in ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’. I liked John Rokesmith’s mild-mannered character, especially when he falls in love with Bella.
Peter Vaughan stars as Mr. Boffin, who has an inheritance from John Harmon’s father and becomes wealthy with his wife Mrs. Boffin. Peter Vaughan played Denethor in the radio series of ‘The Lord of the Rings’. I did like his line “Meow, says the cat; quack says the duck; bow-wow-wow says the dog!”
Pam Ferris stars as Mrs. Boffin, Mr. Boffin’s wife. Pam Ferris played Miss. Trunchbull in the children’s movie ‘Matilda’. I enjoyed Pam’s performance as Mrs. Boffins and she’s so kind-hearted and friendly compared to Miss. Trunchbull. The Boffins take Bella Wilfer into their company at their new house.
David Morrissey stars as Mr. Headstone, a schoolmaster who becomes besotted with Lizzie Hexam. David Morrisey would later star in ‘The Next Doctor’ in ‘Doctor Who’ with David Tennant. Headstone is a passionate, violent man who scares Lizzie and he almost kills Eugene Wrayburn during the story.
Timothy Spall stars as Mr. Venus, a man who owns ‘his own curiosity shop’ and works with Silas Wegg against Mr. Boffin. I must admit, I don’t comprehend what goes on between Wegg and Venus. But Venus seems a gentle soul, gives cups of tea to Wegg and is in love with Ridderhood’s daughter.
Kenneth Cranham stars as Silas Wegg, a ballad-seller with a wooden leg who gets hired by Mr. Boffin to read for him. Wegg eventually seems to go against Boffin when he’s seemingly cheated by him and attempts to blackmail him. The double act between Wegg and Venus seems so comedic in this.
Dominic Mafham stars as Mortimer Lightwood; a lawyer who is a friend of Eugene Rayburn’s and becomes involved with the John Harmon murder in the story. Lightwood is like a brother to Eugene, especially when he becomes so concerned for him over his romantic infatuation with Lizzie Hexam.
David Bradley stars as Riderhood, a rival river-man with Lizzie Hexam’s father, Jesse. David Bradley also starred in the ‘Harry Potter’ films and played William Hartnell in the ‘Doctor Who’ docu-drama ‘An Adventure In Space and Time’. Riderhood assists Headstone with Eugene Wrayburn’s ‘murder’.
Okay, I’ll comment on this. For me, as a ‘Doctor Who’ fan, there are three Doctors who appear in ‘Our Mutual Friend’. They’re Paul McGann, David Morrissey and David Bradley. Paul McGann, the ‘real’ Doctor survives, whilst those ‘fakes’ ones David Morrissey and David Bradley kill each other. 😀
The rest of the cast are as follows. There’s Katy Murphy as Jenny Wren; Martin Hancock as Sloppy; Paul Bailey as Charley Hexam, Lizzie’s brother; David Schofield as Jesse Hexam, Lizzie’s father, Rachel Power as Pleasant Riderhood, Cyril Shaps as Mr. Riah and also Peter Wight as Mr. Wilfer, Bella’s dad.
This TV drama of ‘Our Mutual Friend’ is one of the best and finest adaptations of Charles Dickens’ classic novel. I enjoyed the many plot twists and turns and the interesting characters featured in this drama. It’s pretty dark and grim, but I did enjoy seeing the many familiar cast faces featured in this.
The DVD special features are as follows. There’s the ‘Dickens: The Final Chapter’ documentary with cast and crew interviews and a suite of music of ‘Our Mutual Friend’ by Adrian Johnston to enjoy.
There’s also a trailer on other BBC classic period dramas to enjoy. These are ‘Pride & Prejudice’ from 1995, ‘David Copperfield’ from 1999, ‘Wives & Daughters’ from 1999 and ‘Middlemarch’ from 1994.
‘The Charles Dickens Collection’ DVD box set has been thoroughly enjoyable and interesting. I enjoyed revisiting these BBC adaptations of these classic works by the author himself. There are so many history lessons to learn from and enjoy from about how Dickens’ world worked in those 1800s.
My favourites from ‘The Charles Dickens Collections’ DVD box set are as follows. The 1985 version of ‘Oliver Twist’, the 1999 version of ‘David Copperfield’ and the 1998 version of ‘Our Mutual Friend’.
‘Our Mutual Friend’ (1998) rating – 9/10
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