Film / Persuasion

The second movie based on a novel by Jane Austen to come out in 1995, and the second movie treatment of Austen's last completed novel. (The first version was a 1971 miniseries. A third, made-for-tv movie would follow in 2007.) Persuasion largely follows the plot, tone, and tight character focus of the book, with very little shift outside of the point of view of the protagonist, Anne Eliot. While much less well known than the sensational Aug Lee & Emma Thompson version of Sense and Sensibility, Persuasion shares much of that film's attention to manners, costume, and attitudes of the Napoleonic Era in domestic England. A reviewer once suggested it was a retelling of the Hornblower novels of iron men and wooden ships - only from the point of view of the women left on shore.

Persuasion opens on what might be the end of an era - the Eliot family has fallen on hard times, and must surrender the ancestrial home to a renter in order to pay off the Baronet's debts. The renter is a naval man, an Admiral Croft, who is now retired from the sea, and wishes to find a place to settle with his wife. But more connects the two families than the house - once upon a time, Anne Eliot was much in love with the Admiral's brother-in-law, Frederick Wentworth, and he with her. Persuaded by wiser heads to break off the engagement, Anne has never found a comparable match in the years since. And now Wentworth is home from the sea - famous, wealthy, and without a glance aside for Anne. Really. It's completely by accident that he keeps showing up where ever she is.

You can guess how this is going to end up.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Some of the dialogue has been...condensed, to make it more speakable. For example, when Anne is at Lyme she sees a handsome gent admiring her, but doesn't recognise him. Later over breakfast, Mary realises that their cousin William Walter Elliot is in town, and Anne realises that the handsome gent is he. In the book, Wentworth comments "Putting all these very extraordinary circumstances together, we must consider it to be the arrangement of Providence, that you should not be introduced to your cousin." In the film, Wentworth looks at Anne and says "Lucky then you didn't bump into him."
  • Big Fancy House: Kellynch Hall certainly qualifies. So does the more 'economical' quarters the Eliots take at Bath.
  • Conspicuous Consumption: Baronet Eliot's primary occupation. Likewise, his heir, Mr Eliot.
  • Cool Old Lady: Mrs Croft, Lady Russel, and Nurse Nan
  • Happily Married: Admiral and Mrs Croft are absolutely adorable old marrieds. With a tinge of bittersweet - Admiral Croft is noted as having a wife but no childern.
    • Mrs Croft (when Anne's horrifically spoiled nephews burst in and demand the Admiral's attention): "The Admiral is very fond of children."
  • Idle Rich: Very nearly every Eliot and Musgrove. Most of their time seems to be spent finding amusements.
    • In the case of the Baronet, it's more like Idle Broke. A lot of effort is spent finding ways for him to amuse himself more economically.
  • Parental Neglect: Mary and Charles for their son, especially after he falls and breaks an arm. Anne tries to make up for it.
  • Shipper on Deck: Admiral Croft for Anne and Fredrick, the whole Musgrove family for Anne and Charles back in the day.
  • Spoiled Brats: Mary & Charles Musgrove's children.
  • True Companions: Wentworth and Harvell