For A Shroud of Thoughts’ 7th Annual Rule, Britannia Blogathon, I decided to choose a film that was already located on my DVR. Since last February, I have had a recording of the 2002 adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby. Because this story takes place in 19th century England and because this blogathon celebrates British cinema, reviewing the movie seemed like a perfect choice! Nicholas Nickleby is not the first adaptation based on a Charles Dickens novel I’ve written about. Within these two years, I have reviewed Oliver!, Oliver & Company, and The Death of Poor Joe. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even know Nicholas Nickleby was based on a book by Charles Dickens until I saw the film’s opening credits. This film selection is a blessing in disguise. It not only gives me an opportunity to watch more movies from my DVR, but it also allows me to expand my cinematic horizons!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: Nicholas and Smike have one of the most beautiful friendships I’ve ever seen put on film! This is the result of good screen-writing and good acting! Charlie Hunnam and Jamie Bell put emotion and heart into their individual roles. Together, they display strong on-screen camaraderie. A great example is when Nicholas is trying to read a story to Smike at Dotheboys Hall. Nicholas Nickleby contained an ensemble cast. Each actor and actress worked well with one another, as the performances complimented and highlighted every talent shown on screen. From Anne Hathaway’s use of various emotions to Christopher Plummer’s consistency, all the interactions brought out the best in each cast member!
The dialogue: As I just mentioned, Nicholas and Smike’s friendship was partly the result of good screen-writing. The movie’s screen-writing is also what caused the dialogue to be so memorable! Every piece of conversation reflected this film’s time period. However, the dialogue sounded eloquent without being pretentious. It was also easy to understand, allowing the audience to make sense of what the characters are saying. In one scene, Nicholas is helping Smike escape his kidnapping. The way he told Smike to hurry out of his current location contained urgency and importance. Conversations like the one I just referenced were a consistent and present component of this film!
A balance of despair and joy: I haven’t read Nicholas Nickleby, but I have read Oliver Twist. From what I remember, Charles Dickens found a way to balance the ideas of despair and joy. This balance can be found in the 2002 film! In the movie’s darker moments, despair could be seen and felt. It showed how ugliness presented itself in Nicholas’ world. But there was not so much of this ugliness and despair to make the audience feel depressed. Moments of joy and happiness served to counteract the darker moments. When joyous scenes occurred, they felt earned by the characters. At the same time, they didn’t make it seem like the rest of the film couldn’t be taken seriously. Instead, the incorporation of joy showed how there was beauty in the world, especially if Nicholas searched for it.
What I didn’t like about the film:
Lots of content in a limited time-frame: Having read two of Charles Dickens’ books, I know there is a lot of content in his stories. While watching Nicholas Nickleby, I could see there was a significant amount of content. The movie is two hours and twelve minutes. But because each plot point was seen as important, the run-time was bogged down by the large number of storylines. This caused the film to feel longer than its run-time. It makes me wonder if this particular narrative would have benefitted from a mini-series format?
Some unsmooth scene transitions: There were a few scene transitions in Nicholas Nickleby that weren’t given smooth transitions. When the story shows Kate’s, Nicholas’ sister’s, perspective, the chapter comes and ends more abruptly than other scenes. It almost feels like the plot temporarily shifts the protagonist role from Nicholas to Kate. Even though Kate plays an important role in Nicholas’ life, she is a supporting character, while her brother is the main character.
My overall impression:
Nicholas Nickleby is the fourth adaptation of one of Charles Dickens’ works I’ve reviewed on 18 Cinema Lane. Out of these four, the best one is still the 1968 musical Oliver! Because I have read its source material, I know there was some content that was cut from the movie, likely for reasons relating to the run-time. Unlike Oliver!, Nicholas Nickleby contained a lot of content that effected its run-time. However, the story was understandable and the screen-writing was strong! Even though there were a few unsmooth scene transitions in Nicholas Nickleby, it never became a common occurrence. What was common was great acting performances, well-written dialogue, and relatable messages! Nicholas Nickleby does a good job at showing how there is both darkness and goodness in our world. In a year like 2020, where it seems like there is one conflict after another, it can be easy to forget the beauty this world can offer. Because of his bad and good experiences, Nicholas Nickleby always perseveres and never takes anything for granted. This is what we can learn from Nicholas’ story, whether or not Charles Dickens intended to teach his readers.
Overall score: 8.2 out of 10
Have you seen any adaptations from Charles Dickens’ work? Are there any British films you enjoy watching? Share your thoughts in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!