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6 Degrees Entertainment

'The Rector's Wife'
(Lindsay Duncan, Miles Anderson, Pam Ferris, et al / 2-Disc DVD / NR / (1994) 2007 / Acorn Media)

Overview: Lindsay Duncan's lean yet luminous face will draw you in to the story of The Rector's Wife. Anna Bouverie (Duncan, Rome) chafes at her limited life as a vicar's wife in a small English town. When her husband Peter (Jonathan Coy) is passed over for a promotion and her daughter is bullied at school, Anna gets a job at a supermarket in another town - a small act of independence that sets off gossip, domestic fights, and worse. When Anna meets another man who seems to understand her frustrations, she stumbles into an affair. The Rector's Wife, in its broad outlines, combines a romance novel plot with feminist themes, but its real strength is the richness of the characters, both in the writing and the performances.

DVD Verdict: 'The Rector's Wife' is a classic story of a woman's efforts to remain a good wife while taking new risks. Anna Bouverie has spent the last 20 years of her life struggling to keep her family financially afloat, in spite of her husband's less than lavish salary in the parish. The last straw occurs when he is passed over for a promotion and Anna has to face the fact that she will have to take things into her own hands as well. But how does she do this without tipping the balance? Unfortunately, her efforts brings about the disapproval of those in the parish as well as the anger of her husband. Anna is forced to form a new identity for herself, not an easy task after all the time she's spent within the protection (and confines) of her marriage. A very believable look at the challenges faced by one woman trying to break out of her shell.

To my mind, this film is one the most memorable British television productions from the 1990s. The lovely and accomplished Lindsay Duncan's understated, yet powerful performance as Anna Bouverie captures all the character's frustrations, disappointments and, finally, flowering in the wake of new love and the potential of a new life away from a loveless marriage and oppressive community.

The film offers insightful comment about the nature of marriage and of the role of religion in modern society without being preachy or judgmental; if one chooses to ignore these themes, the film can just be enjoyed as fine, compelling drama. With Miss Duncan, there is fine support from the wonderful Stephen Dillane and from Ronald Pickup and, as always, Prunella Scales. Well worth repeated viewings. This is a Full Screen Presentation (4:3) and comes with the Special Features of:
Joanna Trollope Bio
Cast Filmographies