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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

The Mayor of Casterbridge (review)

Thomas Hardy’s bummer of a tale of personal failings, decorous deceptions, and poetically just comeuppances gets an impeccably mounted production from the A&E cable network, which continues its winner strike of stellar adaptations of classic literary works. In a moment of alcohol-fueled weakness, poor farmhand Michael Henchard (an appropriately austere Ciaran Hinds) betrays his wife in the cruelest way imaginable, and she leaves him. Twenty years later, she returns to find him reformed, contrite, and considerably moved up in the world — he’s now the mayor of a small town and a successful businessman. But their reunion, and his introduction to the daughter he last saw when she was an infant, rocks Casterbridge’s polite society. Hardy’s condemnations of constrictive, hypocritical tenets of morality remain as pointed today as they were in the 19th century, as this fresh and pertinent production beautifully demonstrates. Sure, it’s depressing… just like real life.

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MPAA: not rated

viewed at home on a small screen

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