~Oliver Twist 1999~
Michael Kitchen as Mr. Brownlow with Sam Smith as Oliver
In my opinion, there has been no one truly definitive screen version of Oliver Twist, though there are several pretty good ones. The 1999 adaptation, a four-episode, six-hour miniseries, is the longest, most complete adaptation. It expands on the backstory of the novel in a major way. If you've ever been confused by any plot points of the story, this series should clear a lot of things up for you! The first episode - or two, I can't quite remember - deal solely with Oliver's origins, and where and how Monks comes into the picture.
It is a very adventurous adaptation, but in some aspects I felt it missed the mark. The portrayal of the Artful Dodger/Jack Dawkins was off. The backstory part of the series dragged on for too long - 30 minutes or so would have sufficed. And I had mixed feelings about how the characters of Monks and his mother were written. Here, Monks himself is a victim, while his mother is the true villain. It's an interesting interpretation, but I prefer my Monks to be more threatening and ambiguous - that is, after all, the point of his character.
On the other hand, this adaptation has the best, the scariest Bill Sikes ever (played by Andy Serkis, who definitely has a gift for playing creepy Dickensian - oh, and Tolkienesque - villains); and probably the most moving and disturbing murder scene of any Oliver Twist adaptation.
One other point of interest is the proliferation of talented actresses who starred in this series at an early stage in their careers: Isla Fisher as Nancy's friend Bet, 19-year-old Sophia Miles as Oliver's mother, and a 14-year-old Keira Knightley as Rose.
This Oliver Twist is definitely not for little ones, but for older fans of the book, or anyone looking for a good Victorian-era period drama, it is definitely worth a look. Stars Sam Smith, Michael Kitchen, Robert Lindsay, David Ross, Julie Walters, Marc Warren, Lindsay Duncan, Emiliy Woolf, Andy Serkis, Keira Knightley, and Alun Armstrong.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Recommended for teenagers and up, and there are a few uncomfortable scenes that you may want to skip.
Photos - unfortunately most of these are very small, though there are a couple of bigger ones: