Jamaica Inn Review

‘Jamaica Inn’ gets lost in translation!

Jamaica Inn

(C) Origin Pictures / Robert Viglasky

Emma Frost’s three-part adaption of the Daphne du Maurier novel Jamaica Inn didn’t quite live up to expectation as the sweeping Cornish / Yorkshire scenery does little to save a dull and ill-paced drama.

Downton Abbey‘s Jessica Brown Findlay stars as Mary Yellan in 1820’s set drama, who arrives at her Aunt Patience’s house, Jamaica Inn following the sudden death of her mother.  Mary’s expecting a bustling Inn, instead discovers there’s no guests at the Inn and her brutish uncle Joss has a strong controlling hold over her aunt – a once carefree woman who now lives in fear.  A web of smuggling, lies and deception inhabits Jamaica Inn and is aided by the majority of the town.  The discovery doesn’t sit well with Mary whose morality on such matters is apparent due to the past death of her father at the hands of smugglers.

Mary’s only allies come in the form of the local parish vicar, Francis Davey (Ben Daniels), and his sister Hannah (Shirley Henderson) and an unlikely corner in Jem Merlyn (Matthew McNulty), Joss’s rugged handsome younger brother.  There’s an instant attraction between Mary and Jem but she doesn’t know if she can trust him and how much he’s involved is in his brothers activities.  After Mary witnesses one of the smugglers hanged by Ross after he snitched on the group, under the order of a mysterious man, Mary’s suspicions of Jem (who to the audience comes across as the most likeable character) grows further, as does her involvement in covering up for Joss, Patience and Jem when the police come calling.

The book of Jamaica Inn is a classic and provides a suspenseful eerie story, however the TV adaption fails to deliver because it’s too slowly paced, has very little dialogue and what dialogue there is continually mumbled.  I’ve been to Cornwall many times and never had a problem with the accents, so I don’t think it’s that, but more how it was filmed, recorded or delivered?  There’s no doubt the scenery of the Cornish moors is stunning, if a little muddy.  Mary’s clothes must have been a nightmare to wash.  The production values in recreating the period really painted a dark yet visceral picture and Jessica Brown Findlay also brings a stark contrast to her previous roles as she looks thoroughly miserable throughout the episode.

Sean Harris gives a stand-out performance of the fearsome Joss who manages to intimidate and scare with just a stern warning look.  Joss is an interesting character in that he’s a controlling man who’s being controlled, for what reason we’re yet to learn. And that might be one of the few reasons to continue watching this rather grim drama for the next two nights.