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Before he lost all sense and sensibility with last year's dull romantic comedy Notting Hill, director Roger Michell first crafted this subtle, unusual complement to 1995's gold rush on the works of Jane Austen. Amanda Root stars as Anne, an ordinary, submissive young woman who was once persuaded to pass up on a marriage offer deemed beneath her caste. At 29, and growing ever homelier in her withdrawal, she is all but discarded as a possible marriage prospect. But when she's temporarily -- and somewhat rudely -- discarded by her family to tend for a feigning-sick relative, she is reinvigorated by a reunion with her spurned love (Ciarán Hinds), the sea air of the southern English coast, and the aggressive attentions of a charming cousin (Corin Redgrave). Unlike the equally superb film that year of Austen's Sense and Sensibility -- or most films set amongst the grand manors of England's Victorian upper class, for that matter -- Michell discards the rosy, romantic glow of pastoral old England, approaching the material with a raw, understated grit that matches its rueful heroine's self-induced gloom. The frequently gray skies and occasionally jittery hand-held camera add just the right shade of constricting plainness to Austen's skeptical view of chronic manipulators and their unhappy prey. Root's performance, almost unnoticeable at first, is a wonderful, gradual character study that saves the full impact of its quiet blossoming for a few small, potent gestures at the film's end -- and lingers long after the credits roll. Presented in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen and 2.0 Dolby Surround. Trailers, keep case.

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