When Catherine Morland is given the opportunity to stay with the childless Allen family in Bath, she is hoping for an adventure of the type she has been reading in novels. Soon introduced to society, she meets Isabella Thorpe and her brother John, a good friend of her own brother, James. She also meets Henry Tilney, a handsome young man from a good family and his sister, Eleanor. Invited to visit the Tilney estate, Northanger Abbey, she has thoughts of romance but soon learns that status, class and money are all equally important when it comes to matters of the heart. (IMDB)
Northanger Abbey is not one of my favourite Jane Austen books but this movie adaptation makes it rather fun, even quirky in tone. Especially the scenes from gothic books our protagonist, Catherine Morland, fantasizes about are a humorous jibe at the taste in literature of young women of Austen’s time. Of course, Austen does not disappoint with her romantic couple although I find Catherine rather young to hunt for a husband with her 17 years, but that is my modern sensibilities talking. After all, we have Kitty Benett who married with 15 years (but it’s clear she’s done a stupid thing).
In this story we see how our heroine develops, matures with the help of her new friends, the Tilney siblings. She’s got a good heart and her innocence despite the scandalous content of the books she reads is endearing. She finds them exiting, the stuff of fantasies, and not something that might happen in a slightly different manner in actual life. So she doesn’t understand the manipulations around her and the mercenary nature of her new friend Isabella Thorpe, a sister of her brother’s friend. Her kind and trusting nature makes her different from usual scheming girls. No wonder Henry Tilney slowly but surely falls in love with her.
Henry Tilney, portrayed by JJ Feild, is a favourite of mine in this movie. His effortless charm and witty repertoire with Kitty (as they call Catherine), is charming, and it doesn’t hurt he’s easy on the eyes. He’s this perfect gentleman, the type you secretly yearn to find in your life. He’s an amazing brother to Eleanor but he’s not blind to his family member’s faults. He knows just what kind of a man his father and brother are and he’s not impressed. He’s more experienced about the society and what goes on behind the scenes yet he still sees goodness and beauty despite the disillusionment. His desire for a simple and honest life is the opposite of his father’s ambitions or brother’s ruthless nature.
Catherine reminds me in some way of Marianne Dashwood, yet she is not likely to have outbursts of passion or be too reckless. She’s prone to daydreaming but which teenager isn’t. She’s probably too sheltered from society yet I can’t fault her parents for their loving care and healthy family environment. They are trusting, perhaps believing other people are as trustworthy as they are. So Catherine grows up a kind, generous, trusting girl, the opposite of the selfish Lydia Benett.
The actors have amazing chemistry. Felicity Jones does an impressive job as a young Catherine, but it is JJ Field as Henry who makes this movie in my opinion. The costumes are superb, as is demanded of Austen adaptations. What stood out in my opinion is Kitty’s riding habit. The hat is to die for and the sheer elegance of the long skirts when on horseback positively surprised me. We’re used to seeing women in carriages, but rarely following men in the fields.
I don’t wish to describe the story in every detail – you should watch it yourself. It is a wonderful period production and the perfect way to unwind after a long day. 😀 I’d recommend it for all Austen fans.