When I heard that the BBC were adapting my favourite Daphne du Maurier book, my first instinct was to be horrified. I felt sure that they would ruin it – there’s so much that could go wrong! After watching the trailer and reading all of the tweets, curiosity overcame me and I sought out Jamaica Inn on the iPlayer.
** WARNING: This post contains spoilers! **
The biggest problem that most people seemed to have with the series was not being able to hear it! I have to admit, I did struggle with Joss Merlyn’s quiet, menacing voice and thick accent, but did the BBC deserve quite so many complaints? I’m not sure. However, I’m sure people are sick of hearing about it, so without further ado, here is a run down of what I liked and didn’t like about the mini series.
What I liked…
- The stunning scenery. Even if a lot of it was filmed in Yorkshire instead of Cornwall, all the brooding darkness in the book is certainly not forgotten! There are some great shots of the misty, bleak moors and there’s lots of mud! There are also some beautiful shots of Roughtor, one of the highest points in Cornwall.
- The stellar cast.
Downton Abbey’s Jessica Brown Findlay was not a bad choice for Mary. She is a good mix of feisty and fearful and she knows her own mind.
Although different from the book (he should have been very tall, with thick dark hair which ‘hung about his ears’), Sean Harris does a fine job of portraying the terrifying landlord of Jamaica Inn – both the sinister quiet of his character (possibly a bit too much mumbling though) as well as his boisterously loud voice.
Described in the book as a ‘poor tattered creature‘, Aunt Patience, played by Joanne Whalley, has a bit more fire in her character. I actually found the madness in her eyes a bit scary.
I named Jem my favourite romantic interest when I read Daphne du Mauirer’s Four Great Cornish Novels but I had not imagined him to be as good looking as Matthew McNulty. In the book he was a charmer, with a twinkle in his eye and a good sense of humour but he looked a lot like his brother. I don’t remember him being described as gorgeous! Not that I’m complaining.
What I didn’t like…
- Mary’s relationship with Aunt Patience. This version of Aunt Patience was less pathetic (she even manages to help the men out at the beach, something I don’t remember from the book) but I also felt less sorry for her. In the book Mary was revolted by her Aunt’s unwavering love for her husband, but she wanted to protect her. She was often impatient with her Aunt but would give her comfort. In the series, I felt as though they were set against each other.
- Mary and Jem’s love scene. I think I would have enjoyed the romantic story between Mary and Jem if I had not read the book. The Mary Yellan I know would never have gone to the inn with Jem! I understand that the sexiness had to be ramped up a bit for a television audience, but I thought that Mary gave in too quickly. Having said that, I thought the two characters had a great chemistry. And who could say no to Matthew McNulty?
- The ruined twist. Ben Daniels is a great actor and I have no complaints with his portrayal of Francis Davey (even if he was not quite as albino as I had expected!) I do have complaints for the writers though. Why, why, why would you ruin the moment of horror, when we discover that the Vicar of Altarnun is the man giving Joss orders?! Instead, it is carelessly revealed at the end of the second episode. What a wasted opportunity.
- The ending. I was actually quite enjoying the final episode which was packed with action and tension. That is until the end, when Francis Davey loses the plot and drags Mary to Roughtor. We then have a bit of an anticlimax, with Jem and the vicar shooting at each other from behind rocks. Skim reading the end of the book, I don’t understand why the BBC changed it.
This BBC adaptation of Jamaica Inn could have been worse, but it also could have been a lot better. I can’t quite put my finger on why, but I found it all a bit boring. Obviously the book is just so much better and there was no point in bothering to adapt it! I hope that at least one good thing will come of it; people who might not have done before will pick up the book and discover the wonderful Daphne du Maurier.