Review: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

DVD: The Mystery of Edwin Drood (2012)

Charles Dickens died in the middle of writing this his last (obviously!) novel and since then there has been enormous speculation about how he would have finished it. No one really knows, but writer Gwyneth Hughes went back to original sources, such as accounts of conversations Dickens had with friends, letters he wrote, opinions expressed by people who knew him, remarks made by his daughter Kate, even the illustrations on the original book cover to try find out what his intentions were in an attempt to solve one of literature’s great mysteries.

This BBC adaptation of the novel fills in the missing ending, and I suppose whether or not it’s a satisfactory one depends on whether you’re a Dickens super fan or not.

Matthew Rhys (the Welsh star of The Americans) plays provincial choirmaster John Jasper, a man who becomes increasingly obsessed by the beautiful, innocent and bloody annoying 17 year old Rosa Bud (Tamzin Merchant). He’s addicted to opium and it may be slowly destroying his mind and making his mood swings increasingly violent. This could be bad news for his nephew Edwin Drood (Freddie Fox), who becomes the target for his hatred as he is the only thing that stands in between him and his love for Rosa. Rhys’ portrayal of Jasper is the best thing about this series. He is powerful and evil and a junkie, raging and consumed by barely concealed lust for a virgin, he makes the screen vibrate with dark, sexual tension. At one point I thought he may rape Rosa while simultaneously choking Edwin.

The Reverend Crisparkle (Rory Kinnear), a typical BBC good natured cleric, provides light relief, but this is definitely one of Dickens’ darker works, with much of the action taking place at night in a barely candlelit Cathedral, where Jasper schemes and sneaks to ensnare Rosa. He also develops an unhealthy obsession with the graves there. Adding some ‘spice’ to the mix is the arrival from Ceylon of hot-tempered Neville Landless (Sacha Dhawan) and his twin sister Helena (Amber Rose Revah), who isn’t popular when Neville reveals a soft spot for Rosa himself, putting him on a collision course with both Jasper and Drood.

The Mystery of Edwin Drood is a Gothic murder mystery with a plausible ending that will keep the BBC historical drama fans more than happy.

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Review by Tina (co-host of 60 Minutes With) from a disc kindly supplied by Aim Publicity.