Jude

Director Michael Winterbottom and screenwriter Hossein Amini's version of the Thomas Hardy gut-wrencher Jude the Obscure is bristling, muscular Victorian noir. Of the scant handful of previous Hardy adaptations, none can match its intensity. Far from another genteel, Emma Thompson country-house tour, it's scabrous, passionate and dark, a grim romance set...read more

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Director Michael Winterbottom and screenwriter Hossein Amini's version of the Thomas Hardy gut-wrencher Jude the Obscure is bristling, muscular Victorian noir. Of the scant handful of previous Hardy adaptations, none can match its intensity. Far from another genteel, Emma

Thompson country-house tour, it's scabrous, passionate and dark, a grim romance set amid the perpetually unfortunate English farming classes. Christopher Eccleston (SHALLOW GRAVE's angel-of-death accountant) plays Jude, a freethinking, would-be schoolteacher trying to rise above his scrubby roots

and never quite succeeding. The movie's secret weapon, though, is Kate Winslet: As Jude's cousin and soulmate, Sue, she's so smart, lovely and brave that when tragedy strikes -- and it strikes hard, like a hammer -- it runs you through the wringer. Winslet was fine as the Jane Austen

flibbertigibbet in SENSE AND SENSIBILITY, but here she looks catastrophe square in the face, and it's one of the year's best performances. The film has its period down cold, but what makes it special is its nerve, about which the best you can say is that it matches Hardy's own.

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