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Fingersmith: Review of a Victorian Drama

Updated on October 21, 2015

This is a simply amazing film

This is exactly what you want and expect it to be - a stunningly photographed and acted movie about the grim Dickensian days. It begins in London in a Fagin-like 'family' of good-natured thieves and pickpockets.

As the plot develops, one of them, Sue, is drawn in to a clever scheme to defraud a young woman of her rightful inheritance.

But it's not what it seems - not at all

This was originally a two-part series shown on television on the BBC and until the end of the first episode, I was enjoying it immensely but then realised that all wasn't what it appeared to be.

In the second half some of the scenes were replayed from a different perspective and everything changed. Everything. Wow. I thought I knew what was happening but now I was truly transfixed.

Everything I had seen was suddenly turned on its head. Suddenly, viewers saw the story from another angle altogether - and it was a terrifying angle.

Twists and turns

Right until the end of the film there are revelations as the plot twists and turns. Every so often I would gasp in surprise as the plot took a further turn and there were even more surprises.

We're taken from London slums to a gloomy Gothic mansion with stops along the way at an asylum for the insane and an idyllic country cottage.

Victorian values

This film is based on an acclaimed novel written in 2002. The author, Sarah Waters, wanted to create a Victorian novel but reveal certain aspects that original novels of that era hinted at but swept largely under the carpet - issues such as pornography and lesbianism.

But don't get me wrong

This is a beautiful film and the issues above are dealt with in a tasteful manner. Yes, you'll be shocked, surprised, delighted and maybe even appalled but I suspect that like me, you'll love this wonderful adaptation.


This is the book on which the film was based. I have it on order now.

Reviews say that the adaptation is faithful to the book but I imagine that reading it will be an enhancement.I'm looking forward to reading - and reviewing - this.


Learn more

See part of this film and see if it's right for you.

A beautifully made film

Please don't be alarmed when you read that the film features an element of a love relationship between two women. And don't feel concerned because of the unpleasant nature of the books that Maud's uncle makes her read aloud to his friends.

These are merely a small part of this fascinating story.

What the film does show is that the morality in Victorian England was very unlike the general impression that many people tend to have. Even those who understand that the 'lower classes' did not subscribe to the myth that piano legs should be covered up for the sake of decorum, which I'm sure is a myth, may not realise that the so-called upper classes were not necessarily following the queen when it came to a strict moral code.

Indeed, it seems that the group that Susan lived with, the 'gang of thieves', had higher standards in many ways than the upper echelons of society.

These people simply did what they had to do in order to survive. The upper classes did not have that excuse.

If there is a moral to this story,it is that people are people; human nature is human nature. It doesn't matter how much money you have ot what your position is in life - at the heart of the matter, the human face is fallible. Some people will always be subject to greed.

I would seriously advise you not to take any notice of the amateur reviews you might read at Amazon. It's sad but true that some people simply didn't understand the beauty of this magnificent film. True, there are excellent reviews too but I urge you to ignore those too - this film is much more dramatic if you haven't read any spoilers.

However, the sociological aspects of this film are peripheral. It has a truly brilliant plot, incredible acting and exceptional photography. You can get a flavour of the film from the video above.


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      Colin323 3 years ago

      This was a really acted and brave series (good old Beeb! ) As you said, it was a play of two halves, each as interesting as the other, but particularly the look into the hidden world of gay love in Victorian Britain, and with its social commentary too, on social class differences. Sally Hawkins was terrific in this (as she is in most plays & films she appears in).