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  • "He Knew He Was Right" is a 4x55 minute TV miniseries adaptation which is very much like the usual Victorian melodrama fare from such notables at the Brontes and Austen. The backbone of the story is about a young man of property who marries and then becomes obsessively jealous of attentions paid his wife by her Godfather. Crisscrossing the main plot are several subplots involving the societal clockworks of middle and upper class Victorian society with all the usual scheming for peerage and property, premarital posturing, courtship and affairs of the heart, and busybody bickering among the staid and stuffy pomp of the times. Although "He Knew He Was Right" has a darkish central theme, it never takes itself too seriously and manages a very subtle and wry sense of humor as it cavorts among the many characters with charm, wit, grace, and beauty. A worthwhile watch for anyone into Victorian melodrama. (B)
  • The BBC have done it yet again; they have taken us back in time in a marvellously convincing manner. It is difficult to find fault with any aspect of this production; settings, locations, costumes and casting are all near perfect and the acting is admirable throughout. From the beginning to the end my attention never flagged for a moment; it is so jam-packed with human interest that I couldn't have enough of it. This is not a melodrama as some have said; taking into account the mores of the time it is totally realistic, with nothing over-played. Yes, it was annoying that the central character should allow his happy marriage to be destroyed by unfounded jealousy and a bit difficult to accept, until you you remember that that wasn't his only source of complaint; he was also annoyed that his spirited wife refused to submit to his unreasonable demands, something which as a Victorian husband he felt he had a right to expect. And she was not entirely blameless; she didn't have to behave in such a flirtatiouus way as to excite her husand's jealousy or to appear to enjoy so much the attentions of her philandering God-father. However, the anger and strife of the two central characters was offset by two other very happy relationships. With so many characters so well realised, well acted and convincing, I was left wanting more - much more.
  • Brilliant adapatation of Trollope's long novel. The actress playing Dorothy is particularly luminous, although all the cast perform well (especially Palmer and James as parents of poor Emily). The social norms and rules may seem strange to a modern audience, but this sort of thing kept Victorian readers on the edge of the seats. The setting was moved from Exeter to Wells for the serial as Wells is more unspoilt (a beautiful Cathedral City in Somerset for those unfamiliar with the UK). Vicars' Close, unchanged since Victorian times, and the Cathedral Close are used particularly well by the production crew.

    Trollope wrote some 49 novels, although few would adapt as well as this to the small screen. Hopefully the DVD release will follow soon.
  • "He Knew He Was Right" (2004) is a BBC TV mini-series directed by Tom Vaughan. It's an accurate transition to film of a novel by Anthony Trollope.

    Louis Trevelyan (Oliver Dimsdale) marries Emily Rowley (Laura Fraser) and takes her to London. They are extraordinarily happy until Colonel Osborne, Emily's godfather, (Bill Nighy) begins daily visits to Emily. Her husband is jealous, which is reasonable enough in the context of the film. However, he makes the serious mistake of forbidding her to see Osborne.

    Emily is high-spirited, and refuses this demand, and matters spiral down from there. Scholars have written that the plot is a reflection of Shakespeare's "Othello." Of course, the central theme of "Othello" is jealousy, but, to me, that's where the resemblance ends. Remember that the character Othello is an outsider. Louis Trevelyan is wealthy, and he moves smoothly in London society. I think the closer parallel is to Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale." In "The Winter's Tale," King Leontes has a beautiful, loving, virtuous wife, but he becomes suspicious of her fidelity. There's no Iago to ferment suspicion--it just arises. In both Shakespeare and Trollope, the unfounded suspicion brings about terrible consequences.

    The major plot of "He Knew He Was Right" is, indeed, tragic. However, Trollope has brought us four sub-plots, all involving true love that is initially thwarted. (Well, I'm not sure about how true the love is in one of the sub-plots, but there's plenty of thwarting involved.)

    As always, the BBC has given us fine production values, and an excellent supporting cast. Oliver Dimsdale does a fine job as Louis Trevelyan. Laura Fraser is brilliant as Emily Trevelyan. The plot depends on her to be loving, virtuous, stubborn, and forgiving, and she manages to portray all these qualities perfectly. The camera loves her, and it's obvious that director Vaughan is aware of this. He has chosen to let her beautiful dark eyes convey to us what she is thinking and feeling. It was a superb casting choice. It's worth seeing "He Knew He Was Right" just to watch a talented actor play the part that's perfect for her.

    Because this BBC mini-series was made for TV, it works well on the small screen. Find a way to see it. You'll be glad you did.

    P.S. At certain key moments in the movie, characters turn to us and tell us what they are thinking. It's an interesting device at first, but ultimately I found it annoying. Luckily, these moments of direct communication from the character to the audience become less frequent as the film progresses.
  • selffamily18 July 2008
    Let me say before I go any further that I have not read the book, but I shall. As with all adaptations, Gone with the Wind aside, there will be butchery to fit into time constraints and productions needs. Having said that, the acting was flawless; what brilliant casting. I start to think of Geoffrey Palmer as the bewildered Victorian parent whose daughters, and almost wife too, ignore his rulings, and then I think of the two French daughters in their pursuit of the naughty vicar and then I am distracted by Aunt Stanbury.... it goes on and on. Trollope's skill for me was in the drawing of his characters and the BBC have captured this perfectly. The only fault I could find, although I didn't look too hard, was that Dorothy seemed to wear the same frock throughout, and I did wonder about the smell. The main story became almost irrelevant at times.

    Love Trollope - loved this. If I had read the book first would I still? Hard to say, but this is quality TV mate, and it's a rare bird.
  • This latest period drama, written by Andrew Davies, takes a minor and rather unusual Trollope novel and applies the full Davies/BBC costume drama treatment. The sets are sumptuous, whether in a London still with fields and footpaths, the cathedral city of Wells or Italy. The acting is excellent, with outstanding performances by some of the older generation of British actors - notably Anna Massey, Geoffrey Palmer, Bill Nighy and Geraldine James.

    But the novel itself is not the usual Trollope of politicians and clergymen (although both are featured). It is rather a psychological study of a man consumed by jealousy, and its effects on all around him. The problem in the 21st century is that the bases for the jealousy, the responses and the social mores which shape them, are so deeply rooted in Victorian England's peculiar class structure that they are hard to comprehend, and even harder to sympathise with. So that this viewer is irritated rather than involved, wanting to ask "what is all the fuss about?" But the director, writer and cast keep the action moving briskly through the four hours of the mini-series, and it is only in the final hour, when melodrama turns farcical, that the irritation overcomes the involvement.
  • This is about the danger of malicious gossip. We have the naive young wife, played by Laura Fraser (Lydia in "Breaking Bad") who has just moved to London with her husband. A friend of her father, played by the ever mischievous Bill Nighy, comes to visit–daily. Her husband overhears gossip about the relationship and sinks into paranoid despair, made worse by a cynical private detective played by Ron Cook (Mr Crabb in "Mr Selfridge"). One of the side stories is about the hapless vicar "in want of a wife" played by David Tennant, whose facial expressions alone are worth the price of admission, so to speak. This mini-series was adapted by Welsh screenwriter Andrew Davies from the Anthony Trollope novel. I haven't read the book so don't know how closely Mr Davies kept to it. I enjoyed the mini-series.
  • Decent production values. Unlikely scenario: stubbornness to the nth degree. Nicely acted in most parts.

    There is a concept of 'the fourth wall' which separates the drama from the viewer. This is smashed regularly for no apparent reason, when one of the characters, suddenly turns to the camera and delivers some form of rationalization. This will add nothing to the exposition, but leaving the viewer, newly disconnected from the world in which he/she was immersed, wondering what on earth the director intended to achieve. Depending on how engrossed you were this is either amusing or infuriating. Really one of the worst (best) examples of why this is not normally a good idea.
  • Has the BBC, like American News programs, suddenly suffered a lack of viewer ship and in an attempt to connect to a dumbed down audience...decided to hip up (bastardize) the classics? You may think so after watching this rendition of "He Knew He Was Right." This mini series suffered from a severe split personality. It was as if the director couldn't decide if he wanted to make a classic or try to appeal to preteen girls. While watching this production I felt torn with what I sensed as a considerable gap between the Old World BBC and perhaps a New World BBC and unlike our current president...I like the Old Europe BBC.

    On the one hand there were wonderful veteran players like Anna Massey, Bill Nighy ,Geoffrey Palmer, Geraldine James, and Ron Cook devouring up the screen with memorable performances...on the other... we are asked to accept a mere child actor, Oliver Dimsdale as Louis Trevelyan the main character. He was so out of his league as to be painful...why not enlist someone like Hugh Dancy or James D'Arcy to rally some real bite into the character of Trevelyan. Dimsdale came off as inept and weak rather than tragic or sympathetic. I wanted to push him off the highest peak at the earliest chance! Then we had to suffer scenes with the terribly miscast Misses French's...although David Tennant portrayed Mr. Gibson...the rivaling young women's love interest or "catch" with a great deal of humor.

    Again a schizophrenia...the set design, cinematography, and costumes had the vigor of a traditional BBC production but the script seemed too contemporary for a Victorian classic...surprising from Andrew Davies who usually surpasses himself with a sharp talent to bring an audience into a different era. There was sufficient time to built the characters (the show is 240 min in 4 parts) but most fell terribly flat. I certainly hope this is not a harbinger to the next generation at the BBC because I will miss the old as much as I miss what used to be American news programs.
  • He Knew What He Wanted starts out interestingly enough, with varying love stories surrounding interconnected characters. The stories range from melodrama to comedy. The main one is sort of a reverse Othello, as the effects of jealousy take their toll on the main character.

    As the stories unfold over four episodes, however, they begin to fall apart. Some scenes are repeated again and again, simply in different settings, until one wonders if the actors even got confused. The interconnections of families is broken almost from the start, so the stories become ever more separate.

    This is exacerbated by some very poor directorial and editorial choices. From a slow- moving, deeply "tortured" scene we jump to a brightly lit comedic farce. The jumps are jolting and remove the emotional punch. Some character arcs are never fully explained (one suspects they ended up on the cutting room floor), so some of the characters make choices that don't make much sense.

    The casting was excellent and the lavish sets and costumes up to the usual BBC standards. It's unfortunate that a potentially compelling story ends up trivializing itself and ultimately looking silly.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    He wasn't was he? Let me start off with saying that I never read the book from which this telly mini series was made. I liked the acting but the premise/plot was just ridiculous. A man thinks that his wife is carrying on an affair with a man friend of hers, and drives himself insane because of it. I mean, come on! The plot was just dreadful. The more he accused his wife, the more the man friend's ego was being fed and the wife's just like this fraud puppet who acts like a dummy instead of just giving up her extra-marital nonsense for her hubby. Hey! you don't need to be sleeping with the guy to make your husband jealous! I watched this 4-hour-two-part mini series for the simple fact that it was very engaging and very well acted. The plot made me just want to go jump in a lake. Maybe, I'm just too modern, or I should have read the book first, I dunno but I just wasn't buying the premise. I appreciated the sub-plot of the young lass who fell in love with a stuck up grand-aunt's nephew better. This film is another pure example of how people from the Victorian era purposefully plagued themselves with such frivolously mindless things. Much ado about nothing, would be putting it mildly.
  • inframan10 January 2005
    Chopped up Trollope is worse than no Trollope at all in my view. There is barely enough exposition for a complex set of characters but there are plenty of climaxes and assorted running gags which are hard to get unless you've read the book. It's basically is a series of punch-lines with no lead-ins.

    This isn't even directed on decent soap opera level, which might have satisfied the time constraints. Why oh why must so many of the characters mug as they address the camera. With the exception of Anna Massey, the acting is dreadful, particularly the leading men, who look like they long to be in a rock opera or at least an early Disney Opus. A spoonful of medicine isn't enough for this travesty, I'm afraid.

    As usual for Masterpiece Theater, the settings are lovely & the music is very loud.
  • smoothl3k4 May 2004
    I havent read the book but I plan on reading it. This movie is very interesting and the main characters Louis and Emily played by Oliver Dimmsdale and Laura Fraser are played very well and are very convincing. I luved this and i would recommend it to anyone. The other story lines within the movie are very interesting as well, the liason between Nora and Mr Stanbury, the two French girls and the Clergman and Dorothy and Brooke.

    Overall very gud movie/series well worth watching!
  • Once again I find myself sitting in on a Sunday night and what happens, my mum puts on BBC 1 at 9 and i think: "not another period drama...". But actually, this one wasn't so bad...

    Not because it had a decent plot or any particularly good character development but because Laura Fraser was in it. I couldn't place her at first but i soon realised it was none other than Kate the blacksmith from A Knights Tale. Not only is she considerably more beautiful than anyone else in the film (especially the french sisters...), but she can act a hell of a lot better than most of them as well. I appreciate that most actors find it difficult to act in the pretentious voices, but why do it then? Is there really a shortage of people who can speak pretentiously? Who knows, point being, Laura stood out around the rest of them.

    That piece of sycophancy aside, I think the problem with this period drama, like so many others, is its willingness to include so much plot at the expense of character development. Perhaps if there was only one girl trying to marry each man instead of half a dozen, we might understand better why she wanted to marry him. Or maybe I'm missing the point. It just seems to me that the girls always one day decide they love someone they've never spent any significant amount of time with, and thats it.

    Anyway, as I say, its better than most, so if you like this sort of thing, You'll love this one.