Over the course of three nights BBC aired their latest adaptation Jamaica Inn, based on Daphne du Maurier’s novel of the same name.
Set in 1820’s Cornwall, Jamaica Inn focuses on Mary Yellan (Jessica Brown Findlay), a 20 year old who travels to Bodmin Moor to stay with family after the death of her mother. Aunt Patience and Uncle Joss are not all that they seem, and soon follows a story of murder and intrigue with smuggling and death aplenty.
Having never read the original novel it is difficult to tell whether the absurdity of the narrative is the fault of du Maurier or the series screenwriter, Emma Frost. The first two episodes were incredibly slow going with little excitement save for some beautiful landscape shots of the Cornish countryside.
Jamaica Inn is not a pleasant story and within half an hour of arriving at the inn Mary faces near rape from a police officer and violence at the hands of her extremely unhinged uncle. To give her some credit, Frost does set an incredibly eerie and atmospheric mood with Bodmin an equally frightening setting, but there is certainly a lot lacking from the tale which could easily have been told in half the time.
By the third and final episode the drama had thankfully stepped up a notch, with an interesting scene on the beach that depicted the group of smugglers purposefully wrecking a ship in order to steal the goods of the sailors, enlightening previously naïve Mary to the real truths of her family. With fifteen minutes left until the end of the programme Mary finally figures out who her uncle’s murderous boss is, something easily guessable from episode one.
Moving away from her role as Downton’s Lady Sybil, Brown Findlay was adept as Mary but not really anything more. Some quality acting came from Sean Harris as the crazed Joss (you might recognise him from the abysmal Southcliffe that aired last August) but most of his dialogue was lost as he mumbled his way through an odd Cornish accent.
The BBC have had nearly a staggering 2200 complaints so far about the quality of the sound on the series whilst many others have complained about the dodgy accents themselves. The cast were great though with star turns from Matthew McNulty (The Paradise) as Joss’ younger slightly less unhinged brother Jem, the love interest for Mary, and Shirley Henderson (yes, Moaning Myrtle).
Sadly Jamaica Inn was not the great Easter entertainment that it promised to be but it was an interesting watch. If you’re looking for quality British drama, we suggest looking no further than The Crimson Field which is a delight.