Daniel Deronda 2002 Review

There’s nothing I like to watch more on TV than a good old period drama – it doesn’t get better than gorgeous costumes, stunning scenery, old-fashioned manners and a hearty bit of romance! Today I’m going to review the 2002 mini-series, Daniel Deronda, starring Hugh Dancy, Romola Garai, Jodhi May and Hugh Bonneville.

The Story:

Daniel Deronda (based on the novel of the same name by George Eliot) is about young Daniel Deronda’s quest to find out who he really is – he was adopted at birth and doesn’t know his real parentage – as his life is intertwined with two very different women: Gwendolen Harleth (Garai) and Mirah Lapidoth (May). Gwendolen, desperate for financial security and good social standing, marries sadistic Henleigh Grandcourt (Bonneville) and longs for Daniel (Dancy) to be her knight in shining armour. Mirah is a young Jewess who wants to find her family and is a talented singer.

(Hugh Dancy as Daniel Deronda)

(Jodhi May as Mirah Lapidoth)

I though the plot was very good. I know that people were divided in opinion over Gwendolen and her fate: some thought she was selfish and got what she deserved; others sympathised with her plight. Personally, I liked Gwendolen and felt sorry for her. Maybe it’s because Romola Garai played her and for some reason I cannot seem to hate any character she plays, for example irritating Briony in Atonement. I think it’s because she always manages to show a certain vulnerability in her characters, making them feel more realistic and well-rounded, and thus I cannot help but feel sorry for them when they suffer.

(Romola Garai as Gwendolen Harleth)

People were also divided over the ending: some wanted Daniel to marry Gwendolen, others were happy with his choice of Mirah. Whilst I can see both sides, I think that Daniel made the right choice. He was clearly attracted to Gwendolen, but he didn’t love her – it was gentle Mirah with whom he fell genuinely in love and I think they were well suited to each other. Besides, I though it was good that Gwendolen was unattached at the end – she had a chance to be free, instead of chained to the loathsome man that was Henleigh Grandcourt.

The drama was very well acted throughout. However, I must confess that I found myself somewhat distracted whenever Hugh Dancy came on-screen – he looked so gorgeous and adorable!

Moving on…

The Music:

This drama featured some lovely music, especially the opening credits and the songs that Mirah sings. Take a listen for yourself:



The Costumes:

As a costume lover, the outfits in this drama were a real treat for the eyes, in particular the ones worn by Gwendolen. I am a huge fan of 1870s fashion and if you are too, I recommend also watching The Buccaneers (1995). Here is a selection of Gwendolen’s costumes:


I really enjoyed this mini-series. I’d definitely like to see it again, and thus it is now on my to-buy list. I am also planning to read the book, and it will be interesting to see how the two compare.

On a side-note (completely unrelated):  fans of the BBC drama The Hour will be glad to know that it has been commissioned for a second series, so there will be more Romola on our screens soon!

(Hugh Dancy as Daniel Deronda, Romola Garai as Gwendolen Harleth and Hugh Bonneville as Henleigh Grandcourt)


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