The television production of Clarissa was loosely based on the novel by Samuel Richardson which was published in 1748. The Harlowe family has worked their way up into wealth and now wishes to rise to the aristocracy. After the death of her loving Grandfather, Clarissa (Saskia Wickham) is to be married to the odious Mr. Soames (Julian Firth) to accomplish this. She refuses and to prevent being forced, runs away with the handsome Robert Lovelace (Sean Bean). Her family disowns her and curses her in life and in the afterlife. Unbeknownst to her, he is a rake of the worst kind. His entire plan is to bed her, stealing her virtue. This plan eventually takes her to a brothel where she is drugged and raped by him. Along the way however, he is touched by her purity and is changed so that at the end he repents and actually loves her. But alas, it is too late. She is jailed for not having any money since her family has disowned her. She becomes disconsolate and ill and refuses to eat anything but bread and water. Lovelace’s best friend, Jack Belford (Sean Pertwee), vows to avenge her death and does in a duel.
This is a gorgeous period and costume drama. The sets are inspiring. Note the long curved banister with the serpent head in one of the early scenes. It is small touches like these that make Clarissa special. Enjoy the beautiful embroidery and jewelling of the jackets worn by Lovelace. It is said that some were quite heavy from it. The women’s dresses are opulent and spectacular, but true to the time. Attention to detail was everything in Clarissa.
I am happy to say that the acting matched the effort put into the costumes and sets in this television drama. None of the actors was weak. Julian Firth was deliciously odious; he could not have been more so! Clarissa’s family was perfectly cruel to her and each in their own unique way. Saskia Wickham was piety herself as Clarissa. Sean Pertwee was wonderful as Lovelace’s best friend. At first supporting his rakishness, and then having doubts. Then coming to champion Clarissa, even when he knew that Lovelace’s fencing skills were far better than his and that duel him would be to sacrifice his own life. What a great job he did!
Sean Bean was deliciously sinister in his role as Lovelace. But it was how he handled the subtle conversion from rake to lover that was impressive. This would challenge any actor, but was handled impressively by Sean and is a must see. I highly recommend this movie.
I give the movie
***** of five stars.