If you think Jane Austen is always about light romantic sparring and sly social satire, then Persuasion may take you by surprise. Here are the reasons why this great TV adaptation of her novel will linger in your mind long after you watch it.
1. IT'S AUSTEN'S MOST EMOTIONAL STORY
Much as we adore the likes of Pride and Prejudice and Emma, they're more about amusement and delight than raw emotion. When Darcy and Lizzy get together you want to clap or do a little fist pump, but you probably won't have tears in your eyes. Well, Persuasion is very different.
It's the story of a young woman, Anne Elliot, who gave in to pressure to give up her first love, the wonderful Frederick Wentworth, because he didn't seem to have the right "prospects". In other words, we're talking about serious regret, and the gradual possibility of redemption as they get to know each other again many years later. It's all so heart-tuggingly poignant that you will be needing a box of hankies by the end.
2. IT'S STRIKINGLY REALISTIC
Most costume dramas seem to inhabit a kind of fairy tale version of Britain's past, where the heroes and heroines inhabit perfectly-lit chocolate box surroundings while looking immaculate and ravishing all the time. Persuasion isn't like that. Persuasion gives us the era as it really was, with natural lighting, well-worn clothing and characters who genuinely do look like people in the early 19th Century.
In fact, when creating this version of Persuasion, the director decided to make the actors go make-up free for the whole shoot, to add to the naturalistic atmosphere of the whole thing. As the director actually explained, "I was desperately trying to make it feel like it could be happening in the next room." And that's exactly how it does feel as you watch it - there's a kind of intimacy with each scene that's unlike any other adaptation.
3. AMANDA ROOT IS WONDERFUL
Amanda Root may not be a household name, but her history as a major stage star (which included playing Juliet alongside Daniel Day-Lewis's Romeo) led to Persuasion being her first starring role on screen. And she's incredible in it, conveying the inner passion of Anne Elliot that she's had to keep painfully restrained for so many years.
This is a subtle drama, and Amanda Root's take on Anne is tender and thoughtful - in fact she communicates as much with her eyes as she does with Austen's words. It's also a remarkably brave performance, without make-up or glamour. As Amanda Root put it, Anne is a "plain woman" but with "emotions buzzing around her all the time."
4. WENTWORTH WILL BE YOUR NEW DARCY
Ah, Captain Wentworth. Could he actually be the most dashing and romantic of all Austen's leading men? There's certainly a case to be made, and not just because he looks awfully spiffing in his naval uniform. A veteran of the Napoleonic Wars, Wentworth is noble, gallant and decent, yet his quiet intensity stops him from being blandly "nice". (It also helps he's played here by the dark and brooding Ciaran Hinds.)
Wentworth also has a way with words which would put Mr Darcy to shame. Just wait till you hear one of his letters which delves into the nature of second chances: "Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you." To which the only proper response is: sigh.