Version: 2012; starring Hugh Laurie.
Plot Summary: [from IMDb:] “As a war rages on in the province of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, a young girl becomes transfixed by the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations, which is being read at school by the only white man in the village.”
My Review: Disclaimer*: I have not read the original book, so this review will not be comparing it to that novel. Only as a story in and of itself, totally unrelated to the book.
With imagination can come much freedom, but it can also be a dangerous thing. So learns the children from a village in Papua, New Guinea during civil war and uncertain times during the 1980’s.
I have to be honest, I did not know what sort of movie this was going to be when I sat down to watch it one Sunday evening. It certainly wasn’t what I expected, and I was not prepared for the gravity and rawness of it. At first it did not make much sense to me; I wondered if I was watching some kind of abstract story whose symbolism escaped me. But I’m glad I kept with the movie, and didn’t turn it off when things got tough. The early parts of the story that did not make sense at first eventually are put together in the end.
This film won’t be for everyone. Even though the most violent actions taken by some of the characters are hidden from our direct view, we still know what is going on. It made me want to upchuck at times. I had to pause it at one point and just cry because of what was happening. But I couldn’t give up on continuing. I don’t know why. I don’t think this was a biographical drama, though I’m sure it was historically based, and looking the book up on goodreads informed me this was an original story. But I was so drawn into the characters and their lives, that it felt so real. Things like this do happen around the world. I don’t want to blind myself to what is reality for many people. It’s terrible to think of, but I’m thankful for what I do have while I yet have it where I live.
On a lighter note, one of my favorite parts was watching Mr. Watts (Hugh Laurie) read Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations to a bunch of children who had never heard anything like it. He doesn’t just read the tale, but brings it to life by using his past theater skills to dramatize the dialogue. Doing such a simple thing brings much joy for the children of the village during an otherwise scary time. The main character, Mathilda, is able to identify so completely with the character of Pip, that the story becomes both a friend and refuge for her in hard times.
This a deep film, and very thought provoking. So much so that my poor pea-sized mind probably wouldn’t get to the bottom of it by itself without intellectuals to discuss it with. There isn’t any gratuitous sex scenes, though a woman is raped. Others are killed in the most brutal fashion and someone is shot at point-blank several times. There is one scene in which some women talk dirty, and I believe there was some bad language used by some of the soldiers. It is learned that a married man commits adultery, but never shown.
This movie definitely isn’t going to be one of those feature films to sit down and watch with Grandma on Christmas. But for those who are interested, it would be a good idea to be prepared for harsh reality and violence. I thought it was a good movie, and would recommend it for mature audiences.