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Little Dorrit

Where to Watch Little Dorrit

G
1988

Set in Victorian England, Little Dorrit from 1987 is a prolific drama, tackling aspects of British society through a blend of thematic undertones such as crime, class, romance and satire. Directed by Christine Edzard, the movie features renowned performers including Derek Jacobi, Alec Guinness, and Joan Greenwood.

The film is an adaptation of Charles Dickens' novel 'Little Dorrit' and concisely weaves its tapestry around the life of Amy Dorrit, known as 'Little Dorrit'. The film clocks in at a hefty six hours but don't be daunted as it is divided into two parts, allowing its audience to fully immerse themselves in Dickensian London and its intricate narrative.

The story is set around the life of Amy Dorrit (Sarah Pickering), the youngest daughter of William Dorrit (starred by Alec Guinness). Born and raised within the daunting walls of Marshalsea Debtors’ Prison due to her father’s unpaid debts, she spends most of her days working as a seamstress.

Derek Jacobi impresses viewers with his stately performance of Arthur Clennam, a kind-hearted and socially conscious man who has spent most of his life in China for his family's business. Upon returning to London, Arthur meets Little Dorrit at his aged mother’s house, where Dorrit works. Arthur becomes drawn to the delicate, yet resilient Amy, and begins to question the circumstances that led to her life of servitude and despair. This curiosity drives him to help her father secure release from the debtor's prison.

Part one of the film mainly focuses on Arthur Clennam's perspective on the distressing social dynamics and conditions of this time. His character, imbued with compassion and principles sharply in contrast to the era's common attitudes towards the poor, forms the moral backbone of the film.

Part two switches its focus to Little Dorrit's perspective, infusing the narrative with fresh vitality as her character comes to the forefront. Part two is largely dominated by the strengths of Pickering's subtle and heartfelt performance as Amy Dorrit. Sarah Pickering’s debut performance is exceptional here, balancing optimism and resilience against a backdrop of hardship and poverty immaculately.

Joan Greenwood brings a certain gravitas to her role as Mrs. Clennam, depicting despair and complexity in a largely one-dimensional character with finesse. Alec Guinness also gives us a standout performance as Mr. Dorrit, espousing both vanity and frailty with ease. Other performances throughout the film add shades of light and dark, painting a vivid picture of Dickens' complex world.

Viewers familiar with the original tome will appreciate the faithfulness of the adaptation while newcomers will find an easy entry point into Dickens' world full of complex characters and social perspectives. Along with the solid and engaging performances, the production value of the film is notable. The settings, costumes and cinematography evoke the atmosphere of the time and place beautifully, capturing the grimness of the debtor's prison, the opulence of the idle rich, and the grey shadows of London fog.

Christine Edzard shows her mastery in capturing Dickens' knack for satire and commentary. The intricate network of characters and the socio-economic dynamics between them are weaved together with simplicity and sensitivity.

'Little Dorrit' is not just a tale of star-crossed lovers, it is essentially a searing social commentary, illuminating the fickleness of fortune, the often unspoken suffering of the lower class, and the stark contrast between different social strata. The film also underscores the sweeping changes being brought about by the Industrial Revolution, with scattered references to inventions, business ventures and the simmering conflict between progress and tradition.

Equally a tribute to Dickens' genius and a work of art in its own right, 'Little Dorrit' is a masterful adaptation that effectively captures the essence of Dickens’ original story while delivering an engaging and thought-provoking cinematic experience. It’s a blend of rousing performances, rich narrative, and commendable direction makes it well worth the time investment for those who appreciate period dramas. It's a film that invites its audience to immerse themselves in a different era, making us reflect on universal themes of societal change, poverty, class, and enduring human spirit.

Little Dorrit is a Drama movie released in 1988. It has a runtime of 360 min. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 7.2..

How to Watch Little Dorrit

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7.2/10
Director
Christine Edzard
Stars
Derek Jacobi, Joan Greenwood, Alec Guinness, Miriam Margolyes, Simon Dormandy, Sarah Pickering
Genres
Also directed by Christine Edzard
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