Little Women (2018) – British Scripter Heidi Thomas Reinvents the Classic

Monday, May 14, 2018

Little Women (2018) – British Scripter Heidi Thomas Reinvents the Classic

Period drama season is, and will forever and always be, an anticipated season. The joy of discovering what period drama networks like BBC or PBS (Masterpiece Theatre) commission is a happy day indeed. One of their newest acquisitions is a remake of Little Women. A classic story that’s timeless, but also reinvented with a modern slant.

Though everyone likely knows the story, here’s a brief introduction.


Set in the 1800s, the March family consists of four daughters, and their mother – Marmee (Emily Watson), whose compassion sends her out to help the poor. Then there’s the girl’s father (Dylan Baker) who is currently serving in the army as a Chaplin during the Civil War.

Second eldest daughter Jo (Maya Hawke) is stubborn and opinionated; eldest Meg (Willow) is sweet and kind, but also wishful of things her family cannot afford; youngest Amy (Kathryn Newton) is a spoiled dreamer. Then there is Beth (Anne Elyes). Unlike her sisters, Beth doesn’t have dreams. Instead she’s the quiet, shy one everyone loves, but doesn’t always understand. Together with their handsome neighbor Teddy “Laurie” Lawrence (Jonah Haur-King), the girls grow up in a tumultuous time that brings many changes.
“Sometimes we simply have to do the bravest thing.” - Little Women
Louisa May Alcott’s timeless story is another piece of classic literature I have never read. However, it is a story I treasure each time it’s relived through (my favorite) the 1994 film adaptation. Sadly, it’s a story I’ve also not revisited lately, which is perhaps why my excitement for this 3-part miniseries sent the eagerness sky high. Unfortunately, I do feel like this adaptation misses a little something. I think I read somewhere, a viewer said this adaptation doesn’t quite live up to expectations, and I agree. Beautiful though it is, there is something lacking about the overall production. Don’t mistake me, as any BBC period drama is (or 99% of them), this production is lovely. It simply lacks something I cannot quite pin down.

Perhaps most surprising to me is this feeling considering this adaptation is in the capable hands of Heidi Thomas (Call the Midwife), who is, unarguably one of Britain’s talented scripters. When discovering her name at the helm of this production, I had even greater expectations. But there are moments of dialogue that sound “rough,” and not the good kind. The script doesn’t hone in on any one thing. The bond between the sisters doesn’t seem as strong as it could. In consideration of this, one might assume a romance is given priority. It isn’t. Still, the moments that do work shine and outnumber the awkward moments.


If I had to say one thing that really feels “off” about this series, it’s the pace. Considering its three hours, there could have been time to expand on elements. Instead important things are skimmed and cheated out of the possible expansion they might have been given. (One of the things I thought would be explored with greater details is Jo’s time in New York.) Lest I give the wrong impression, don’t misunderstand, BBC’s newest adaptation is wonderful. Unlike some period dramas, this one has an organic feel that comes across as genuine. Whether it’s in the scenery or the make-up free faces of the protagonists, the rawness of the story is elegant in its own way. Plus the ending is complete and darling.

The feature film does seem to have a better handle on how to tell the story (all in two hours). This is true of the complex emotions between so many of the characters, including the sisterly bonds. Nonetheless this miniseries is still beautiful. It has the fortune of being produced by gold star production companies and a talented cast, plus there are some pretty romantic scenes between the “ship” that almost was.

Lovers of classic literature, old-fashioned romance and BBC productions won’t want to miss this new adaptation. There’s an authenticity to its storytelling I admire and wish more productions would adopt. ♥

(This post does contain affiliate links, which means – at no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through a link. Read the disclosure page for details.) You can purchase Little Women on DVD and Bluray.

Photos: BBC / Masterpiece Theatre

12 comments

  1. Great post! I'm disappointed to hear that it didn't quite live up to all your expectations. That being said, it does sound like it still had some great moments, and I'm still looking forward to check it out. It's currently on my DVR just waiting for my finals to be over so I can watch it in peace! :)

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    1. Oh it does, Theresa! I'm such a fangirl of BBC (British) period dramas, so it has to be bad - like, tragic ending bad - for me not to like these. Sounds like watching this will be THE best way to celebrate finals being over. Let me know what you think. :)

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  2. Totally agree about the pacing - maybe because Heidi Thomas is used to having a lot more episodes to play with? I did really enjoy this version but somehow it just didn't have as much heart as the 1994 one.

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    1. YES! Well said, Catherine. There was something missing, and I think the "heart" of the relationships or story is precisely it. That said, I did still really like this one. :)

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  3. Something seemed off to me too. Hard to say exactly what though, you're right. I think what I would say is that it didn't linger long enough. That ties into pacing too. I felt like the characters were always busy moving and doing things that I never got a good look at their faces, you know? A strange nit-pick -- and more of a symptom than the actual problem. Still I'll be watching the rest of it! I was very amused to find that Maya Hawke is the daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke! She actually looks a lot like Uma Thurman. Nice review! :)

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    1. Maya does indeed look like her mother! My mom and I remarked on this while watching the episodes.

      Defitenly something is a little off with this miniseries. I mean, I still loved it (because BRITISH!!), but yeah. It just didn't live up to the expectations it MAY have had. Plus, I think I was so prepared to fall head over heels for the romance between Jo and the Professor (I assumed he'd have so much more screen time given the runtime). Alas, it wasn't to be. But I do appreciate we got to see more of Meg's romance. :)

      Thanks so much for reading, Sarah.

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  4. I've been meaning to watch this mini series. I am a fan of the book and I have watched other adaptions before. I didn't know it was a BBC production, they are great at period drama.

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    1. BBC is amazing with period drama! Hope you enjoy this one, Carlyn - let me know what you think if you see it. :)

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  5. I've been looking forward to this adaption for months! I can't wait to see it, although I was a little afraid it wouldn't quite live up to expectations. I'm glad I read your review before I do see it, that way hopefully my expectations won't quite be as high as they were. Thanks for sharing! And yeah, the 1990's version has been, so far, my favorite. I think among fans that has been the most memorable, especially like what you said about the bond between the sisters.

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    1. There's just something "magical" about that 94 adaptation. The cast, and bond between characters is really sweet. I do hope you really enjoy this one, Korin - and I hope my review didn't ruin anything for you. :/

      Let me know what you think... I'd love to know your thoughts and impressions. :)

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    2. No, your review didn't ruin a thing! I enjoyed reading it. :) And I finally got to see the miniseries and did review it on my blog, if you'd like to read it. Sadly, this version of "Little Women" wasn't my favorite. http://imgoingonanadventure15.blogspot.com/2018/05/little-women-bbc-thoughts.html

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    3. I'm so glad. :)

      YAY! Of course, I'd love to read your review. I'll be by soon to take a look. Glad you circled back by, Korin - and shared your thoughts.

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