JANE AUSTEN MOVIE CLUB: Northanger Abbey (2007)

Welcome to another special “meeting” of the Risky Regencies Jane Austen Movie Club!

Today we’re discussing the newest version of Northanger Abbey, which aired this Sunday in the US, and last spring in the UK.

We discussed the new Persuasion last Tuesday — and if you missed the discussion, it’s not too late to stop by and add a comment! Opinions on it were mixed, but with few raves, and a fair amount of disappointment (particularly about the run and the kiss at the end).

I suspect, however, that opinions on Northanger Abbey may be a bit different! Can’t wait to hear what you all thought of it…

Here are a few pieces of information I found interesting:

This Northanger Abbey was filmed entirely in Ireland.

And, not surprisingly, a lot of the cast are Irish actors doing English accents.

The screenplay is by Andrew Davies, who also scripted the upcoming BBC version of Sense and Sensibility, which will air in the US on March 30 and April 6.

Davies is, of course, the screenwriter for the 1995 Pride and Prejudice (the one with Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth) and the 1996 Emma (which starred Kate Beckinsale), both of which will be shown on PBS as part of their “Complete Jane Austen.” He also did the screenplays for Bridget Jones’s Diary, the 1994 Middlemarch, the 1998 miniseries of Vanity Fair, the 2002 Daniel Deronda, and the 2005 Bleak House.

According to imdb.com, Northanger Abbey was played by Lismore Castle, in County Waterford, Ireland.

To aid discussion, here are some of the major credits:


Catherine Morland: Felicity Jones

The Voice of Jane Austen: Geraldine James

Mrs. Morland: Julia Dearden

Mr. Morland: Gerry O’Brien

James Morland: Hugh O’Connor

Mr. Allen: Desmond Barrit

Mrs. Allen: Sylvestra Le Touzel

Sylvestra Le Touzel is a Jane Austen veteran, having played Fanny Price in the 1983 BBC miniseries of Mansfield Park. She was also seen as Marianne Thornton in 2006’s Amazing Grace.

Henry Tilney: JJ Feild

John Thorpe: William Beck

Mrs. Thorpe: Bernadette McKenna

Eleanor Tilney: Catherine Walker

General Tilney: Liam Cunningham

Capt. Frederick Tilney: Mark Dymond

Isabella Thorpe: Carey Mulligan

Carey Mulligan is no stranger to Austen either, having played Kitty Bennet in the 2005 film of Pride and Prejudice. She was also young Ada in the 2005 miniseries of Bleak House.

SCREENPLAY: Andrew Davies


So….what did you think???

All opinions welcome!

Cara King, who danced Catherine & Tilney’s dance last Saturday at the annual Jane Austen Ball!

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Elena Greene
14 years ago

I didn’t despise PERSUASION but this NORTHANGER ABBEY worked better for me.

Felicity Jones is very cute and believable as a 17 year old. JJ Feild is also appealing despite the Prince Charles Ears.

I enjoyed the gothic fantasy sequences even more in this one than in the earlier. Overall it worked well. Because it’s a shorter book I suspect NA lent itself more easily to a 90 minute adaptation than PERSUASION. I’ll be interested to see how MANSFIELD PARK fares–that’s the most challenging one, I think.

Elizabeth Kerri Mahon
14 years ago

I have to say that I found this version of Northanger Abbey delightful, much more so than Persuasion and the earlier version with Peter Firth. Maybe I was able to enjoy it more because it’s not as familiar to me as the various versions of P&P, S&S, and Persuasion. Also, it’s very much a young writer’s work. I thought that Felicity Jones was perfect as Catherine Moreland, innocent and naive, but also able to stand up for herself when necessary. I really believed in the relationship with Henry Tilney, maybe because JJ Feild was very appealing. I agree with Elena that the 90 minute running time suited Northanger Abbey. Overall a much more successful adaptation. For once Andrew Davies got it right!

Diane Gaston
14 years ago

I loved it!
Of course, we already know I’m predisposed to love any of these Austen movies.
I haven’t read Northanger Abbey in a very long time so I can’t say how faithful it was to the book, but then I’m not that particular (just don’t insert things that don’t belong, like slave trading, as in the movie Mansfield Park)
I thought all the actors were appealing and acted “just as they ought!”

Bothers me a bit that Bath wasn’t Bath, but they did it so well, I was thinking – is this really Bath?

and the reference to vampires. I looked on google books and did a search – the word “vampires” did not appear in the book. I must confess, the “vampires” was the one thing that pulled me out of the story.

Amanda McCabe
14 years ago

I really enjoyed this one! It was adorable, and I liked the way the “fantasy sequences” were done. Like the costumes, too. I wanted to run out and shop for bonnets 🙂 (Have to agree with Diane about the vampires, though–it pulled me out of the story and made me start wondering…)

After being disappointed with Persuasion last week, I wondered how much I would enjoy this Austen Mania month. So I was doubly happy with NA! (Have my doubts about next week’s MP, though)

Keira Soleore
14 years ago

I’m sorry to report that I fell asleep while watching NA. Bleh. Jet lag. I’ll have to wait till next Sunday afternoon to watch it again, before Mansfield Park.

Janet Mullany
14 years ago

I loved it too!
And apparently so did my husband. Whenever Isabella and her bosomy gowns appeared he said “Hot damn!”
I was a bit disappointed they didn’t include Tilney’s admonishment to Catherine where he tells her that this is England etc.
What did everyone think of the rather modern interpretation of the dysfunctional Tilney family? I loved the thunderstorm at the end, tho.

Susan Wilbanks
14 years ago

I thought this adaptation was, well, adorable. Catherine and Henry were perfectly cast, with Henry reminding me a bit of Jim from The Office. I also thought they did a good job of mostly staying true to the story while exaggerating certain elements to make the nuances clearer to modern viewers not familiar with the era–e.g. Captain Tilney’s seduction of Isabella, having Catherine’s solitary journey be at night, etc.

Cara King
14 years ago

I shall start by saying that I have a lot to say about this adaptation, so I’ll do a bunch of posts, on different topics! 🙂

First off, I liked it a lot.

I’m quite familiar with the book myself, so I did notice most of what Davies changed…and though there were a few things I wish he hadn’t (isn’t that always the way?), the interesting thing was that I could always see what he was getting at, why he was doing it.

He was making the plot more of a dramatic arc — for one thing, he set up some flaws in Catherine for her to overcome by the end — so that in modern dramatic/literary theory, she is a proper protagonist, rather than a passive person to whom things just happen.

For example, in the book, Catherine never tells Thorpe that she’ll go with him instead of the Tilneys…but here she does, eventually. (Then regrets it when she gets rained on anyway, and they never make it to Blaize Castle.)

Also, here, Catherine is rather more upset about her suspicions that Mrs. Tilney was murdered — here, it happens right near the end of her Abbey stay, and her self-reproach lasts till Tilney shows up…

Tilney also has “growth” in this version…he clearly is undecided earlier whether he’d be willing to marry someone without money & break with his father, and then by the end he decides he’s willing to do it.

So we have two much more traditional character arcs in the Davies version.

Which didn’t bother me at all. It’s a different medium, for starters, plus though I adore Northanger Abbey, I’m not one to argue it’s a perfect novel.

Okay, will be back later… 🙂


Diane Gaston
14 years ago

Cara, I just reread and saw that you danced at the Jane Austen ball! How lovely! I hope we hear more about it, but it must have been a treat to see the same dance on Northanger Abbey!

Pam Rosenthal
14 years ago

Carey Mulligan does wonderful things with her dimples… or whatever Janet’s husband was watching.

I think she’s a very good young actress, and I found the post-sex scene especially touching, her utter aloneness at a moment when a young woman shouldn’t be alone so very very sad.

The screenwriter’s extratextual reading of her episode with Captain Tilney really worked for me. And so I was surprised when another viewer said she thought Isabella had only gotten what she’d deserved. What do you folks think?

Cara King
14 years ago

Yep, Diane, the Jane Austen Ball was this past Saturday — though I don’t know when I’m going to blog about it, I’m so busy with the Jane Austen Movie Club for a while! 🙂

Okay, the ACTORS:

I thought Felicity Jones was adorable and perfect as Catherine — except perhaps a bit too pretty. That’s one thing I liked about the previous Catherine — she wasn’t always gorgeous, and so in that way better fit Austen’s Catherine. (But it’s a very minor point, I know! I still adore Felicity Jones here. And yes, I loved that she looked 17!)

J J Feild was WONDERFUL as Tilney. Funny, sweet, cute, fun…I want to hang out with that Tilney! And I’m so glad that this Catherine doesn’t have to settle for a scary old foppish guy like Peter Firth! 😉

I loved Carey Mulligan, too, and agree her dimples should get an acting credit of their own! Okay, she wasn’t *exactly* the Isabella in my imagination, but wonderful nonetheless.

John Thorpe and Captain & General Tilney were fine by me…

I thought Eleanor Tilney looked a bit old, for my taste. IMHO their sibling dynamic is wrong if she’s older than Henry — I picture Eleanor as maybe 20 years old. This Eleanor looked 30 or even a well-preserved 35 to me…

I liked the Allens fine… My friend Jean & her dashing husband Jack (who also attended the Jane Austen Ball, & recognized Catherine & Tilney’s dance as Childegrove) really liked Mr. Allen, but I confess I don’t actually remember him all that much! And I think I prefer the Mrs. Allen from the earlier Northanger Abbey adaptation, in which the Allens were much broader…I do think some of Austen’s Bath bits are very broad, very silly & satirical, and Mrs. Allen always strikes me that way.

Okay, that’s my take on the actors! More later…


Elena Greene
14 years ago

And so I was surprised when another viewer said she thought Isabella had only gotten what she’d deserved. What do you folks think?

I saw it more the way you did, Pam. This was a more layered Isabella, one we could pity for not having had a different upbringing and also living in a time when there were fewer options to women. Still not heroine material but human.

Cara, I thought Eleanor looked too old, too, though I liked her otherwise. In the book she came across as matured by the difficulties of her life, do maybe this was what they were trying to convey.

Cara King
14 years ago

And so I was surprised when another viewer said she thought Isabella had only gotten what she’d deserved. What do you folks think?

I thought it was sort of ambiguous… As far as I’m concerned, the Isabella in this version could have been an amoral, selfish, manipulative witch, with a long string of broken hearts behind her. Not that I think that means she “deserved” it…but, in this interpretation, she took a gamble (knowing precisely the risks that she was taking), and lost.

But I thought this version’s Isabella might also have been a girl without much malice but who’d been raised badly, trying to make her way in the world as best she knew how. The book Isabella is clearly a cold-hearted schemer; this Isabella seemed perhaps more innocent, her flirtatiousness possibly more the normal high spirits (and changeable affections) of a teen girl, rather than the signs of someone who only ever sees the bottom line.

Either way, I think both this version and Austen’s make clear that the wiles and schemes of an Isabella cannot stand up to those of a Captain Tilney… Eleanor knows right away who’s going to come out of the thing the worse, and she’s right…


14 years ago

This version of NA was quite delightful and the gothic portions were inspired or at least I thought so. Felicity Jones is too cute and her performance put me very much in mind of the book. I too notice the vampire reference and it did irk a bit. Other than that I think this was a very good adaptation.

Cara King
14 years ago

The vampire reference didn’t bother me…it’s not anachronistic, and, though there’s no vampire reference in Austen’s NA, I could see that it was part of the new arc thing that Davies was doing. Plus, he was trying to make Catherine not *quite* so entirely naive and gullible as she was in the book… 🙂

As to the question of Isabella…here’s another thing that occurred to me. In that scene, she doesn’t say “when are we getting married?” or anything like that; no, she says something like “are we engaged now?”

I think that means that he did not ahead of time say “I love you, marry me” or similar. i.e. they did not get engaged before Isabella slept with him.

Which in my mind leaves two choices: (1) he said something bizarre like “if you sleep with me, I’ll get engaged to you”, or (2) he made no proposal (at least, not a direct one.)

I think #2 above could range from him not mentioning marriage at all, to him saying something suggestive or ambiguous like “you’re the perfect girl for me, and I’d marry you if you weren’t so proper and prudish all the time”…

But it seems to me that the most likely scenario is that she thought he would do the “honorable” thing and marry her, but didn’t actually discuss it with him ahead of time.

Which I think makes one pity her less than if he’d promised marriage and then reneged…


14 years ago

I thought it was everything lovely and delightful! Great cast, though I agree that Eleanor seemed a bit old. And though I loved JJ Feild and thought he did a great job, Andrew Davies’s take on Austen heroes always comes off a bit angry to me.

And though I don’t like to be a nitpicker about accuracy, it drove me nuts that John Thorpe stopped the gig when explaining to Catherine – because then why didn’t she get out and go back to the Tilneys? Sheesh. 🙂

14 years ago

Well, most of what I would say has already been said! I liked this version of Northanger Abbey very much. I think that Felicity Jones was very pretty and likable and did an adorable look of wide-eyed innocence; and J.J. Feild was very funny and charming as Tilney. I didn’t like the Gothic interludes in the earlier Northanger Abbey adaptation, but the ones in this version bothered me less. And I thought that Andrew Davies’s alterations worked–the dramatic arc of his movie is not quite the same as that of the book, but it’s not completely different either, and doesn’t distort the essential natures of the characters.

Also, unlike the weepy Anne Elliot of last week’s adaptation, this Catherine Morland is mostly a happy, sunny person. She is sad and shocked and occasionally mortified, but most of the time she is smiling and delighted with everything the world brings her. No wonder Tilney fell for her.

I liked most of the secondary roles as well. And as for Isabella and her “bosomy gowns”–I’m sure I didn’t notice such things…yes, quite sure…


14 years ago

I really loved this version of NA. It wasn’t nearly as campy as the original. I thought Catherine was a delight and I couldn’t help thinking that they took the time to cast a very pretty Austen herione.

I’ll be the b***h here and say that I thought Isabella got her just desserts, that the Tilney men (save Henry) are scoudrels and rakes. Who played Captain Tilney? Verra nice!

I am looking forward to Mansfield Park. I have to confess that it is not one of my favorites.

Cara King
14 years ago

Who played Captain Tilney? Verra nice!

I agree, Santa! He was striking enough that he was memorable, even in such a small role, which is always helpful.

The actor’s name is Mark Dymond, BTW…


14 years ago

Ah, a Dymond in the rough! Sorry I couldn’t resist!

14 years ago

Cara wrote:

I’m so glad that this Catherine doesn’t have to settle for a scary old foppish guy like Peter Firth!

Yes…no going around kissing his walking stick for this Henry Tilney!


14 years ago

Alas, a tiny bit late to the NA party. . . but yeah, I’m another one who really liked it! 🙂 I also saw it last year off of youtube, and it was right after I read the book, and thought it was a pretty good representation of the book. 🙂 I still haven’t been able to see the other NA movie, so I can’t compare to that one, but bookwise and just looking at this movie, loved it.

And as for MP to come — also, caught on youtube (but it’s really nice to rewatch these on a bigger screen on television! LOL) — but I really liked it too. Yep, it was short, but it did bring things in from the book that weren’t in the 99(right year?) one. . . it did change a big thing, but for me it still worked. . . so in a short preview, I am looking forward to watching it again. 🙂


Cara King
14 years ago

Thanks, Lois, now I’m really looking forward to the new Mansfield Park! (Though, having just watched a couple episodes of Doctor Who last night, part of me is still going “this is going to be weird…”) 🙂

Lindsey wrote: it drove me nuts that John Thorpe stopped the gig when explaining to Catherine – because then why didn’t she get out and go back to the Tilneys?

I agree that I thought she should get out — that is, based on her character (and how gaga she was for Tilney), it seemed quite surprising that she didn’t get out. But I suspect this was part of Davies deliberate changes — Austen’s Catherine hardly changes at all during the course of the book, and learns little — and I suspect he was giving Catherine a few flaws and missteps that she could learn from and grow from.

Though I still can’t believe she didn’t hop down. 🙂


Cara King
14 years ago

Thought of more to say! 🙂 (Surprise surprise…)

For much of it, the lack of actually filming in Bath didn’t bother me much — but it occasionally did:

1) there were far too many scenes shot with that one arch thing behind them…until I started wondering if they could only find one believable backdrop?

2) the Pump Room killed me. So totally different. Looked *so* wrong.

I thought the Assembly Rooms looked fine because, of course, she’s in the Lower Rooms! Which none of us have seen because they were demolished long ago… 🙂

On another subject…there were certain changes from the book to make things more easily understood by us modern folk…I admit I think I disliked every one of them, though I do see why they were done. (Though by disliked, I’m not saying I was up in arms or anything…)


1) having Catherine be sent home at night on the stage, instead of during the day by post;

2) having Catherine read The Monk. So Mrs. Radcliffe isn’t good enough anymore??? And we’re really to believe that this sheltered minister’s daughter is reading about raped nuns and people having sex with their siblings on gravestones??? Sorry, but I just don’t buy it. (Austen at least once implied *Fielding* was too naughty…)

(And if I got the plot points of the Monk slightly confused, I apologize…)

But again, as I said, these were only very minor annoyances to me…


Keira Soleore
14 years ago

I stayed off this thread before, because I’d missed seeing last Sunday. Saw it earlier today.

This was the best NA I’ve seen, despite the generous artistic license. Feild was great as Tilney. Felicity was great with a smile and fresh eagerness, but that worried pouty look appeared far too often.

Elena: Prince Charles ears. 🙂

Ammanda: Weren’t those bonnets just delicious? Loved all the costumes.

I agree with everyone about Carey Mulligan and her dimples. I noticed them in P&P, and they were even more noticeable here, because her character’s not as giddy here.

Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x