For those of you who aren't familiar with the plot of Lorna Doone: it's set in Exmoor, the 'Wild West' of England, in the late 17th century. The Doones are a band of thieves and marauders, the terror of all Exmoor. They kill the father of twelve-year-old John Ridd, leaving young John to care for his mother and sisters and tend the family's farm. One day, John is out catching fish for his mother, when he is dragged away be the strong current. He is thrown down a treacherous waterslide, before falling onto the rocks below. . . when he regains consciousness, the first thing he sees is a little girl with curly black hair looking back at him. The little girl's name is Lorna. In fact, John has unknowingly found a secret way into the valley of the Doones!
Eventually some of the Doones come in search of Lorna, and John has to leave, but the chance encounter stays in the memory of both. Many years later, they happen to meet again at the exact same spot, and promptly fall fathoms deep in love. ( I have to say, this was one of the things that I didn't like so much about the plot. I'm not a great believer in love at first site, and in this case everything happens so quickly - blink and you'll miss it!)
After several more dangerous journeys by John into the Doone Valley, the pair decide to get married. There are, however some major obstacles in the way of the young lovers. Lorna is betrothed against her will to her violent, maniacal cousin Carver Doone, who is 14 years her senior. When Carver's grandfather Sir Ensor Doone dies, and Carver takes his place as leader of the clan, he decides to force Lorna to marry him. As a result John is forced to take action to rescue his sweetheart.
The acting was pretty good - particularly Martin Clunes as Captain Jeremy Stickles. Also keep an eye out for James McAvoy (Becoming Jane, Narnia) in one of his first ever on-screen roles. And Irish actor Aiden Gillen was wonderfully horrible as the villainous Carver Doone. He was soooo slimy. . . but at the same time, he portrayed his character in such a way that it you can't simply dismiss him as the 'bad guy' - you're forced to stop and ponder what might have been if his heart hadn't grown so dark and twisted. He had enormous potential within him, he was a born leader - there were so many "what ifs" and "if onlys" that I was left to wrestle with after the movie was finished.
It's a tale full of adventure and romance, set in a very wild and romantic corner of the globe. (The film was actually shot in Wales, not Exmoor, but it still looks great.) There's plenty of eye candy on show - the stunning landscapes, the youthful cast, not to mention the exquisite soundtrack. All things considered, the BBC really did a good job with their limited resources. Remember, this is a made-for-tv movie!
In the end, it's a great drama, and you might find yourself picking up a bit of history on the way. England was rife with political and religious turbulence during this period. Many of the characters are drawn into the Monmouth Rebellion, and we become acquainted with several political figures of the time, including Judge Jeffreys - "The Hanging Judge", as he later came to be known.
There is inevitably a good bit of violence. Some of it was pretty full-on - well, it was for me, anyway. But that's just me. If someone scrapes knee or busts a toenail I have to look away. . . which makes it all the more remarkable that I was able to sit through all of The Lord of the Rings without flinching or feeling sick! I had read the books, so I knew when the "scary bits" were coming up, maybe that helped a bit. But I'm going off-track: as I was saying, Lorna Doone isn't really suitable for younger children, but teens and adults will enjoy it.
This is one of those rare instances where I actually like the movie almost as much - if not better - than the book! Hmmm, no doubt hardcore Lorna fans will forsake me forever after that last statement. I'm just being honest! I think that in this adaption, the hero is less macho and the villain less one-dimensional than they are in the book.
There was another BBC version of Lorna Doone done back in 1990 which I wouldn't mind seeing sometime. I'm not sure that I want to fork out the money to buy it - from what I've read, it's pretty average compared to the 2000 adaption that I bought. But the 1990 one has Sean Bean as Carver! I guess that's the real reason why I want to see it. I've seen pictures of Mr Bean as Carver Doone, and he's got a big blond mullet - he looks so daggy! Click here to see what I mean. . . *Groans* only in 1990. . .
You can watch Lorna Doone online at Youtube, but let me recommend that you buy the DVD - it's worth it.
To find out more, have a look at MyLadyLorna.tripod.com, the only (as far as I know) Lorna Doone fansite on the net. It has lots of photo galleries - I tried to include some photos in this post but it didn't work for me. . .