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Closing Night Gala

Great Expectations

Mike Newell’s new adaptation of the classic novel stars Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch and Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham.

Even if a screening is sold out, tickets are often available 30 minutes before the start of the film at the box office at each venue.

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  • Director Mike Newell
  • Producer Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley, Emanuel Michael, David Faigenblum
  • Screenwriter David Nicholls
  • With Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Jeremy Irvine
  • UK 2012
  • 120 mins
  • UK distribution Lionsgate UK

Visually ravishing and rippling with immediacy, this new adaptation of the classic novel, directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; Four Weddings and a Funeral), provides a fitting conclusion to both the 56th BFI London Film Festival and London’s bicentenary celebrations of the life and work of Charles Dickens. Frightened into aiding an escaped convict (Ralph Fiennes in top form as Magwitch), young orphan Pip incurs the wrath of his abusive sister and guardian (Sally Hawkins) and is sent to satisfy the mysterious whims of the immensely rich and grim Miss Havisham (Helena Bonham Carter) and her adopted daughter Estella (Helena Barlow as the girl). This short-lived interlude leaves Pip captivated by the beautiful Estella and with a newly-acquired taste for grander things. Years later, when he is training with his kindly brother-in-law Joe (Jason Flemyng) as a blacksmith’s apprentice, Pip learns from London lawyer Jaggers (Robbie Coltrane) that he has come into a fortune which will allow him to live as a gentleman. He assumes that his benefactor is the same lovelorn lady he visited as a child. David Nicholl’s splendid script has an acute respect for the complexities of Dicken’s original text (and I shall leave you in suspense as to which ending he chooses). The arc of Pip’s journey – his youthful, innocent love for Estella, his corruption by social ambition and the dangerously possessive desire that follows – is also superbly expressed in the transition from Toby Irvine as the loyal young Pip, to Jeremy Irvine (War Horse) as the self-centred, careless adult. Holliday Grainger is delectable as the adult Estella, her calculated remove a perfect study of contained voluptuousness. One of the film’s many accomplished strokes comes from costume designer Beatrix Aruna Pasztor’s (Drugstore Cowboy; The Fisher King; Good Will Hunting) whose phantasmagorical gothic creation of Miss Havisham’s brittle, papery wedding gown is both a knowing tribute to the actress who wears it and a sublime interpretation of Dickens’ most melancholic character.
Clare Stewart

Director statement

Dickens is one of this country’s Primary Colours. The British recognise his voice instantly. He has a highly coloured theatrical sensibility and London is his stage. From the London streets he takes his bold, absurdist comic characters. From London comes the dangerous, shadowed, cruel landscape that sucks his protagonists down to their fates. Dickens loves his stories to be vivid, sometimes over-the-top, hyper-energetic. But he had a frightening poverty-haunted childhood, the shadows of which hang over his stories. The highly coloured energy of Dickens comedy contains a mirror image of dark cruelty and madness. Great Expectations is for me his greatest novel. It's the story of two bullied, emotionally abused children; a coming of age story set against the brawling energy of the world’s biggest, richest and baddest city.
Mike Newell

Director biography

Born in St Albans in 1942, and educated at Cambridge, he embarked on a three-year training course at Granada Television, with the intention of going into theatre. Instead he soon graduated to directing TV plays – in the heyday of the small-screen single drama – and built a strong reputation for work with David Hare, David Edgar, John Osborne, Howard Brenton and Jack Rosenthal. Subsequently, he has directed everything from gritty character-driven British drama to major sword-and-sorcery Hollywood blockbuster. Initial critical success in feature films came with the acclaimed Dance With A Stranger, a powerful depiction of the life and death of Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be sentenced to hang in England. In 1994 the Oscar nomination for his iconic comedy, Four Weddings and a Funeral established his versatility, while Donny Brasco soon followed, delivering a striking performance from Al Pacino, and showcasing Newell’s ability to create electric films with an international appeal. Under his command, Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire, considered one of the best films in the series, blended his talent for reaching an international audience with his capacity to visualise decidedly English characters. He even dabbled with new technologies by taking on Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and is scheduled to next shoot the Ian McEwan novel On Chesil Beach.


1977 The Man in the Iron Mask [TV]; Charm [TV]
1978 Little Girls Don’t
1980 The Awakening
1982 Bad Blood
1985 The Good Father [TV]; Dance with a Stranger
1987 Amazing Grace and Chuck
1989 The Whole Hog [TV]; Soursweet
1990 Common Ground [TV]
1991 Enchanted April
1992 Into the West
1994 Four Weddings and a Funeral
1995 An Awfully Big Adventure
1997 Donnie Brasco
1999 Pushing Tin
2002 Jo [TV]
2003 Mona Lisa Smile
2005 Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire
2007 Love in the Time of Cholera
2010 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
2012 Great Expectations

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