Nicholas Nickleby

Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Jamie Bell, Miranda Richardson, Nathan Lane, Christopher Plummer

Director: Douglas McGrath

Nicholas Nickleby (Charlie Hunman) is a young English man with a mother and sister Kate (Romola Garai) to support, since his father died and left them next to nothing. Due to their desperate plight the Nickleby family are forced to seek the aid of the late Nicholas senior’s brother Ralph (Christopher Plummer). Ralph pretends to be quite helpful as he quickly arranges a teaching job for Nicholas with the horrible Wackford Squeers (Jim Broadbent) and his nasty wife (Juliet Stevenson). This leaves Kate and Mrs Nickleby under the questionable influence of Ralph. Ralph’s butler, Newmann Noggs (Tom Courtenay), knows a great deal about his employer’s true intentions but unfortunately Ralph has got a steely hold over him and when Ralph encourages one of his clients Sir Mulberry Hawk (Edward Fox) to get close to Kate, he proceeds to do so in a very vile manner.

Meanwhile Nicholas befriends a young, sickly, disabled and harshly abused boy Smike (Jamie Bell) at the academy. The level of abuse suffered by the boys at the academy causes Nicholas to leave with Smike after a powerful showdown with Mr Squeers himself. Nicholas and Smike try their hand at the theatre with the influence of Vincent Crummles (Nathan Lane) but when news of Kate’s welfare reaches Nicholas he promptly leaves with Smike to come to her aid.

In the meantime the Squeers are still plotting to take Smike back. Nicholas however is lucky enough to get another job where he meets and falls in love with a girl Madeline Bray (Anne Hathaway). Then just as everything seems to be going fine, his friend Smike falls terribly ill. In order to care for him Nicholas leaves his family behind and takes Smike out to the countryside.

Smike’s origin is still a mystery that eventually reveals itself with a very shocking conclusion and as everything starts to become clear Nicholas has to face up to his Uncle Ralph, who turns out to be not what he pretended to be.

Charlie Hunman is perfect as Nicholas – simple, strong of heart and mind while Christopher Plummer projects evil in a very sadistic, chilling way as the distraught Uncle Ralph. Romola Garai gives her character the right amount of innocence and strength while Anne Hathaway portrays the dedicated daughter and first time love beautifully. The talented cast, especially Tom Courtenay, Jim Broadbent, Edward Fox, Nathan Lane and Juliet Stevenson all give skilful performances and are excellent in their individual roles.

With good directing from Douglas McGrath who has to deal with an extremely long story that has lost a lot of its original characters, he still manages to maintain its central theme of love conquering hate and fear that ruins people’s lives.

NICHOLAS NICKLEBY is a lovely, pleasant drama with a unique, principled hero that sends out a good message to all – great and small.

4 out of 6 stars

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