Destitute and drunken, Michael Henchard is an itinerant farmhand who sells his wife and daughter to a sailor in a moment of alcohol-fueled desperation. So begins THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE, Thomas Hardy s enduringic. This lavish new adaptation from A&E and Britain s ITV stars Ciaran Hinds ("Road to Perdition," "Jane Eyre")as the tragic, tormented Henchard. Decades after his fateful decision, no
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Ciaran Hinds, James Purefoy, Jodhi May. In a moment of alcoholic despair, a farmhand sells his wife and daughter to pay a debt. Years later he is a reformed and respected member of society-until his long-lost family returns seeking redemption. 2001/color/3 hrs., 30 min/NR/fullscreen. Common sense suggests that no good can come of auctioning off your wife in a drunken fit, but Thomas Hardy's classic novel The Mayor of Casterbridge turns this dark story, set in rural England in the mid-1800s, into a compelling, compulsive ride. The discarded wife (Juliet Aubrey) returns after 19 years with her daughter (Jodhi May) in tow, only to discover that her former husband, Michael Henchard (Ciarán Hinds) has risen as a merchant and a politician. But though he welcomes her back and arranges to renew their bond without public shame, Henchard's pride and fear remain intractable; the struggle for love and happiness collides with shame and secrets as Hardy's complex tale unfolds. While the 1978 miniseries with Alan Bates is much less abridged and gives a fuller immersion into the novel and life at the time, the swiftness of this two-part adaptation makes it more immediately emotionally engaging, and the superb, compact performances by the entire cast (including Polly Walker and James Purefoy) give this version a potent punch. --Bret Fetzer