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Pride & Prejudice (U)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

IT'S been filmed on several occasions - most recently in the form of the classic 1995 television mini-series starring Colin Firth - but Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice remains a timeless piece of work that continues to attract big audiences.

This new version, directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen, should continue to do just that, given that it's a beautifully shot and extremely well-acted affair that manages to put a fresh spin on the story while remaining faithful to the origins of the novel.

The film, of course, follows the adventures of Elizabeth Bennet (Knightley), her four sisters and their attempts to find husbands.

For Elizabeth, especially, the path to true love charts an unexpected course given that she is pursued by three suitors - the dashing Mr Wickham (Rupert Friend), the inept Mr Collins (Tom Hollander) and, most significantly, the handsome but aloof Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy (Macfadyen).

It is her love-hate relationship with Mr Darcy that presents one of the most classic battles of the sexes ever portrayed in literature and which has an impact on the lives of several people around her, including the developing relationship between her eldest sister, Jane (Rosamund Pike) and her rich suitor, Mr Bingley (Simon Woods).

Wright's movie bears all the hallmarks of a classic English period drama, gleefully exposing the folly of the class system while presenting audiences with another affair to remember.

It is a sumptuous and frequently breezy experience that works on several levels, providing something for audiences of every generation to enjoy because of the way it embraces traditional values.

If there is a criticism, it's that the central relationship between Elizabeth and Darcy doesn't always convince, with Macfadyen occasionally lacking the charisma that Colin Firth brought to the role.

But crucially, this doesn't mar the overall experience and both Knightley and Macfadyen are fine when playing things spiky.

What lends the film it's biggest heart, however, is the relationship between Elizabeth and her father, Mr Bennet (Donald Sutherland), which is both funny and tender - and sure to bring a tear to the eye come the end of the movie.

The chemistry between Knightley and Sutherland is exemplary and it is clear that there is a genuine affection between them.

Elsewhere, Dame Judi Dench provides a suitably feisty Lady Catherine De Bourgh (especially in her scenes with Knightley), while Hollander provides some wonderful light relief as the socially inept Mr Collins, as does Brenda Blethyn as the meddling Mrs Bennet.

The look of the film is also likely to impress viewers, taking in some truly stunning locations in Derbyshire, Wiltshire and Kent (all of which lend to the authenticity of the piece).

At a time when world events continue to depress, Wright's movie provides near-perfect escapism that succeeds in whisking audiences away to a bygone era and a different set of values.

It proves that when told properly, Austen's classic love story - which still sells in excess of 100,000 copies a year - has lost none of its power to seduce.

Related stories: Pride and Prejudice feature (Keira Knightley)

Special feature: The challenge of casting and shooting

Keira Knightley interview

Matthew Macfadyen interview

Brenda Blethyn interview

Joe Wright interview

Watch clips from the film

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