Picks and Pans Review: Clarissa
Masterpiece Theatre takes on a daunting project: the dramatization of this work by Samuel Richardson, considered the first English novelist. It's a challenge of condensation (distilling a book of a million words into three one-hour episodes), of adaptation (Clarissa was written in epistolary form) and of viability (making a novel from 1747 entertaining for today's television audience).
The BBC succeeds on all counts in telling the story of virtuous heiress Clarissa Harlowe (newcomer Saskia Wickham), who flees an odious arranged marriage only to be emotionally snared and ruined by the rake Robert Lovelace (Sean Bean). The film is shrewd, involving (albeit less so with each successive Sunday) and full of vivid characters.