"Jude" is an uncompromising adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel "Jude the Obscure". No cinematic sugar has been sprinkled on this tale of struggle and tragedy.
Set at the end of the last century, here lies the opportunity for yet another period drama, where troubles and setbacks are carried out against a romantic backdrop of yesteryear. Not so with "Jude". This is despite the fact that as modern British historical films go, this is visually one of the most impressive. A well-paced script ensures that this is not a movie that relies on scenery, but rather on the characters within it.
Jude (Christopher Eccleston) is a stonemason who has, since his youth, dreamed of becoming an academic. This is a daring and near-impossible ambition given his working-class background. But his perseverance gets him to the university town of Christminster. Here he can be among the scholars he craves to join. But upon meeting his beautiful and modern cousin Sue Bridehead (Kate Winslet), he soon finds his priorities changing as he falls desperately in love with her.
While there are obvious feelings between the two, their love proves difficult to consummate. An impulsive marriage from his past remains unresolved and the social stigma of them being cousins doesn't help either. But these form only the beginning of a long and hard struggle, which will either bring them closer or forever deny them happiness.
In many respects there are so many potentially depressing setbacks in this tale that it's a tough one to mount for commercial cinema. But there is a balance here, with levity and hope provided by an utterly charming Kate Winslet. Christopher Ecclestone copes well with his often tragic character, while director Michael Winterbottom weaves a convincing and engaging atmosphere around the two.
Read a review of the DVD.