As a writer and a woman raised in Boston, perhaps no sisterly American coming of age story means quite so much as Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. For the hundreds of millions of others out there who’ve been enchanted by the Civil War-era morality tale, here’s a much-anticipated first look at the new BBC/PBS adaptation.
Since its publication 149 years ago, readers have been drawn to Little Women for its classic, unassuming family and life lessons — a Christmas classic up there with Dickens, yet sadly underrated on holiday viewing lists. Finally, twenty-plus years after the favorite 1994 film adaptation, Jo March and Co. will return in a new public television miniseries.
Here’s a first look at the BBC and PBS MASTERPIECE collaboration, which hopefully will be just as strong on the holiday #decorgoals, Pinterest-worthy organic holiday swag, and timeless feminism.
The writer behind this new version, Heidi Thomas, has already proven herself adept at telling proud, strong-female-driven costume dramas with wit, heart, and aplomb as the creator and lead storyteller behind Netflix’s Call the Midwife — with Vanessa Caswill of the BBC’s Thirteen sitting in the director’s chair.
Hello Magazine reports “relative newcomers” in the central roles of the March sisters: Willa Fitzgerald as Meg, Annes Elwy as Beth, Kathryn Newton as Amy, and Maya Thurman-Hawke (daughter of Uma and Ethan) as Jo — with equally fresh-faced Jonah Hauer-King as their Laurie. Oscar-nominated British actress Emily Watson plays their Marmee, and Harry Potter‘s Michael Gambon as neighborly philanthropist Mr. Laurence.
Perhaps the geniuses at public broadcasting knew what we all needed now, more than ever, is the original “when they go low, we go high” morality tale. British viewers will be able to begin the three-part BBC One series this Boxing Day (December 26th, 2017), but American viewers will have to wait until Mother’s Day (May 13, 2018) for our own two-part PBS series.
If you can’t wait that long, the much-adored 1994 adaptation directed by Gillian Armstrong (Winona Ryder! Christian Bale! Kirsten Dunst! Claire Danes! Susan Sarandon! Gabriel Byrne! Eric Stoltz!) is available to stream through Amazon Video (free for Prime members), though sadly not on Netflix or Hulu right now.
Jezebel agrees that it’s a holiday must-watch — calling the 1994 Little Women soundtrack “an essential part of the holiday season,” especially Thomas Newman’s instrumental title score called “Orchard House” (which is delightfully available on Spotify, so add away to those Christmas eve playlists). Watching the March sisters engage in snowball fights —and selflessly deliver their Christmas dinner to the Hummel Family while Wassailing down the lane — also helps to get into the holiday spirit. (In high school, I was scarred forever from DIY hair styling by the March household curling iron.)
At least five years since my last viewing, I streamed it while writing this hoping to be similarly seasonally inspired — and was literally moved to tears upon hearing these wise, famous words again from Marmee March (Susan Sarandon):
“I only care what you think of yourself. If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that’s all that you really are. Time erodes all such beauty, but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind: your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage. These are the things I cherish so in you. I so wish I could give my girls a more just world, but I know you will make it a better place, hmm?”
We should have been a great many things, Jo. A great many things. Perhaps we still will — or hand it off to the millennials, who are sure to be turned on to the charms of Little Women forever thanks to this new reboot.
Even though, as Glamour proclaimed in 2013, the 1994 version may be “the very cinematic definition of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’,” we’ll just have to wait and see what The Pickwick Society has to say.