Great Expectations: Movie Review
What happens when a poor boy suddenly becomes really rich?
Pip is just a child when something incredible happens to him and changes the course of his life. He helps an escaped convict but also gives him more than he asks for and doesn’t turn him in. This is the beginning of an unbelievable life.
Great Expectations, directed by Mike Newell, is based on the novel by Charles Dickens. It is a tale that spans many years and locations - and is far more confronting than I expected it would be. From the very first scene, the audience is captivated by the sense of unease portrayed by the filmography and this increases throughout the movie.
An unusual life
Pip’s life continues to get stranger as he gets older. First, he meets Miss Havisham, a rich old woman who was left at the altar decades ago but who still wears her wedding dress every day. He then falls for her adopted daughter, Estella. Soon after, still as a young man, he comes into ‘great expectations’ or, in our language, he inherits a truckload of cash. This comes from a mysterious benefactor who instructs that Pip be raised as a gentleman.
From then on, Pip’s life is a haze of frivolity and excess. However, all this is not enough for Pip. He finds it difficult to deal with the contrast between his new life and his old one as a blacksmith’s apprentice. He also is in love with Estella but no amount of money can buy her love.
The acting in this film is really impressive. Newell directed one of the Harry Potter films and this movie reunites three cast members - Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort), Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix Lestrange) and Robbie Coltrane (Hagrid) - in three main roles. Newcomers Jeremy Irvine (Pip) and Holliday Grainger (Estella) are equally as impressive. Newell’s adaptation is very close to Dickens’ original text which does at times make the movie confusing and rushed. Pacing is probably the biggest issue with this movie.
Why the movie stuck with me
However, as much as we might consider this film for its merits as a movie, it stayed with me for the next few days for a completely different reason. I was struck by the emptiness of Pip’s life once he inherits the money. Though he seems on the surface overjoyed, his life has no true purpose and he leaves behind his family and a job that gave him something to do.
God’s plan for us may not be clear, but he has one for everyone. Pip floundered with his wealth and his freedom, as we might be in danger of doing in such a beautiful, rich country. But we have inherited expectations much greater than money: life with God. This gives us a purpose that is more significant and more important than becoming a ‘gentleman’ or even winning our 'true love' over: serving God for our whole lives. In Acts, Jesus appears to Paul and gives him a job to do which, as inheritors of eternal life, is ours as well. He says:
“Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen and will see of me” (Acts 26:16).
Great Expectations is, overall, an impressive and engaging movie, but I hope that if you see it, you’ll come out feeling blessed that God has given you a purpose and that you might see that as much greater than any amount of money or status.