5 Costume Dramas That Will Satisfy Your Inner Hopeless Romantic
Costume dramas are my ultimate movie comfort food. The gowns, the tights, the manners, the buildup to the chaste (and not so chaste) final act kisses–nothing else is quite so satisfying. It’s a genre that is rooted in familiar tropes and familiar characters and as a viewer I wouldn’t have it any other way. Romantic costume dramas are timeless; they speak to that part of us that wants to indulge in fantasies of restrained courtships, forbidden love and dallying with Colin Firth on picturesque moors despite our modern sensibilities.
Plus they’re always pure eye candy. Not just the clothes, but the stately manors and seemingly untouched countryside locales too. They transport us to a different time and place, but more importantly they let us check our cynicism at the door and allow ourselves to embrace the gooey romanticism of pretty people wearing pretty clothes and falling madly in love with one another.
Whoever decided to cast Michael Fassbender as Mr. Rochester deserves an Oscar. Maybe even ten of them. His brooding was mesmerizing enough to almost make me forget how much I tend to hate Mr. Rochester after the attic reveal. Equally wonderful was Mia Wasikowska’s seamless embodiment of Jane’s reserved, but powerful spirit.
Together their chemistry felt hauntingly true to the Gothic classic’s roots even as it took liberties with just how passionate Jane and Mr. Rochester may have gotten. The adaptation deserves extra kudos for its lush cinematography and direction that dialed up the inherent spookiness of the story. Thornfield had never looked quite so foreboding before, and Mr. Rochester had never looked so inviting.
Emma Thompson earned a best adapted screenplay Oscar for writing Sense and Sensibility and that was an Oscar well earned. She infused her adaptation with all of the strong familial ties and polite courtships that make Sense and Sensibility so irresistible, and with help from Ang Lee behind the camera, she brought the world of 19th century England to life. A world that happened to be populated with British heavy hitters like Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Hugh Laurie and the incomparable Alan Rickman.
After their father’s death, the Dashwood sisters have to face the hard realities of being single women in a time when inheritances passed to male heirs (this should sound familiar to Downton Abbey fans). Their story is one where financial concerns are as ever present as romantic ones. Speaking of which, Sense and Sensibility‘s romantic plotlines have more twists and turns than a spy drama, creating an air of suspense that romance movies usually can’t muster due to their inherent happily ever after set ups.
Mansfield Park is a very loose adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel of the same name. Not only does it diverge significantly from the novel in terms of characterization and plot, it drew inspiration from Austen’s own life to flesh out the heroine, Fanny.
Frances O’Connor’s Fanny is headstrong and lively. She has a wonderful presence, and her requisite longings for love and independence as well as her writerly ambitions and willingness to confront her uncle about his participation in the slave trade has earned her a spot on my favorite costume drama heroines list.
Her paramour of choice in the film is played by costume drama MVP Jonny Lee Miller, who I sometimes suspect is actually a time traveler. Their rode to love is marred by class issues, less deserving suitors and his father, but not by the fact that they are cousins. (You’ve got to love those wacky nobles.)
Ralph Fiennes and Cate Blanchett play the title roles in this underrated story of love, obsession and two people’s quest to build a church out of glass and then transport that sucker through the Australian outback in the 1800s. It’s a dustier costume drama than the other ones on this list, but it’s got them all beat on the repressed love front.
This movie will break your heart , but you will love every minute of it. Blanchett and Fiennes have a remarkable connection as Oscar and Lucinda. Their loneliness draws them to one another and a bet leaves them intrinsically linked (and leads to some seriously quality pining). But it’s the stunning visual of the glass church, and what it represents for Oscar and Lucinda, that will stay with you long after the movie ends.
The March sisters had their share of romantic entanglements, but the romance of this movie comes more from the sisters’ vivid imaginations and joyous sense of play than from their relationships. Yes, there is the wonderful, doomed Jo and Laurie pairing, but I remember Little Women more as a film that I’ve always wanted to get lost in.
From the gorgeous dresses the girls wore, to the cozy cottage they lived in and Jo’s quest to be a writer–it’s a film that speaks to the part of me that wishes someone would get on the whole time travel machine thing so I could get lost in the (fictional) past. And okay, maybe find my own Laurie while I’m there, but who can blame me? That guy grew up to be Batman.
Those are my picks, but I would love to hear about the costume dramas that you can’t get enough of in the comment section!
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