This is my review of Death Comes to Pemberley [DVD].
Not having read P.D. James's novel, which I suspect is an advantage, I found the film version entertaining. This is not a simpering costume drama, but reminded me of the vitality of the Poldark series in its earlier episodes.
P.D. James cleverly pinpoints an ideal plot thread: the existence of the embittered rogue Wickham who keeps turning up like a bad penny to threaten the reputation of Darcy's family. Wickham's apparent crime drives a wedge between Elizabeth and Darcy in quite subtly developed and moving scenes. The parallel dilemma as to whether Darcy's sister Georgiana should make a safe marriage for reasons of property and status, or a riskier one for love is also well handled.
Flashbacks to important dialogues in the original "Pride and Prejudice" are skilfully woven into the plot. Moments of humour are provided by revisiting well-loved situations such as Mrs. Bennett's vulgarity and lack of tact, and her husband's continual attempts to escape her, as in his pleasure at being able to hide in Darcy's library. There is some excellent acting of some "minor" parts, such as the stoical housekeeper with the capacity to rise to every occasion, keeping the staff under her thumb yet kindhearted with it. Trevor Eve does a good job as the cynical neighbouring landowner and magistrate. The scenes of Chatsworth, and, I believe, Yorkshire woodlands and hills are beautiful, the dialogue often sharp, and the plot neither too predictable nor ludicrous, with a suitably nail-biting climax and denouement – apart from a few small queries such as why Wickham, his wife and Denny were travelling on their fateful coach journey on the evening before the ball they intended to gatecrash. Also, Elizabeth and Darcy seem to dress rather plainly for such grand people, and to travel round with remarkably little pomp and protection. Perhaps there is also a tad too much hamminess with people almost drowning themselves out of grief or nearly ending it all with a cutthroat razor.
Although I am not a fan of this kind of sequel, it works quite well here, and I suspect the book may be even better.