I just finished watching the 1995 best picture nominee Sense and Sensibility on TCM and, despite the fact that I’ve watched it several times in the past, I’m glad that I took time to rewatch it. Sense and Sensibility is one of those very special films that you should rewatch every few months just to be reminded of how good it is. There’s no CGI in Sense and Sensibility. Instead, there’s just some very good writing, some excellent performances, and some lushly wonderful images of the English countryside, courtesy of director Ang Lee. It’s a deliberately paced film, one that proves the virtue of a subtle touch.
The film tells the story of the Dashwoods. As Mr. Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) dies, he tells his son by his first wife, John (James Fleet), to take care of his second wife (Gemma Jones) and their three daughters, Elinor (Emma Thompson), Marianne (Kate Winslet), and Margaret (Emilie Francois). Naturally enough, John does the exact opposite and soon the Dashwood sisters are forced to leave their large estate and fend for themselves.
The film centers on the practical Elinor and the passionate Marianne. Elinor meets and falls in love with Edward (a surprisingly restrained Hugh Grant), an aspiring clergyman who is also John’s brother-in-law. Edward comes from a wealthy family but will be disinherited if he marries someone who has neither money nor social prominence. Marianne, meanwhile, has fallen in love with John Willoughby (Greg Wise), who is handsome, dashing, rich, and a bit of a cad. (Cad is such a cool word. People should start using it more.) Marianne is so in love with the unworthy Willoughby that she misses the fact that the kindly Col. Brandon (Alan Rickman) has also fallen in love with her.
Sense and Sensibility is based on a Jane Austen novel and, in its very British way, it’s a wonderfully romantic film. Tonight, when viewed in the shadow of the recent passing of Alan Rickman, the scenes featuring Col. Brandon were even more poignant than usual. His love for Marianne is perhaps the most pure and selfless love to be found in the entire film. There’s a scene where Col. Brandon is speaking to Elinor and Marianne, inviting them to his estate. Marianne ignores him until Brandon mentions that Willoughby is also inspected. Suddenly, Marianne looks up and smiles and Alan Rickman allows just a hint of pain to enter his voice. It’s a masterful performance.
But really, the reason why I love this film is because it’s about sisters. I am the youngest of four sisters and, whenever I see this film, it’s hard for me not to see the Bowman sisters in the Dashwood sisters. There is so much about Marianne that I relate to, from her passionate pursuit of “true love” to her artistic sensibility to her somewhat dangerous habit of wandering around in the middle of thunderstorm. You never doubt for a second that Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet could be related and this film always makes me appreciate my own sisters.
Sense and Sensibility was nominated for Best Picture of 1995 but it lost to a film that is its total opposite, Mel Gibson’s Braveheart.