Gemma Arterton in Tess of the D’Urbervilles

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In this BBC one series shown at nine o’clock on Sundays, Gemma plays the heroine Tess. She is most well known for her staring role in the 2007 version of St. Trinians. She is now known as although accomplished, still up and coming actress. She plays the character of Tess derby-field, an innocent yet opinionated peasant girl from a poor family, with fantastic empathy. I was delighted when the series was recommended for this review as I have been following with great enthusiasm since day one.

Tess is sent to work for her long lost relations the “d’Urbervilles” as a chicken farmer, as part of “claiming kin”. However this turns out to be a terrible mistake as she is viciously rapped by Alic D’Urberville, a rich yet troubled young man who is evidently mental unstable. Tess had never fully trusted Alic; however her confidence was severely knocked. She left her position and fled home, only to find she was pregnant.

Though the child had been forced upon her it was evident (thanks to Gemma’s accomplished performance), that Tess still loved it. She was therefore devastated when, at only a few months old, it died. She left her home and went to work on a dairy farm, seeming much happier. Unfortunately she could never fully escape her past. (Mainly thanks to Alic, who would not let her, go). and could never move on even after falling in love. She cannot get on with her life while her past is still secreted.

As a whole the series is extremely well directed and produced. Many effects are used in it from simple lighting to foe rain. It is an extremely talented cast, none of whose performances I could fully criticize. The audience is constantly kept in the loop of the characters emotions. Nevertheless there was one young lady whose performance shone above all others. Gemma not only accurately portrayed the character of Tess, but did it so convincingly in many places she had me in tears.

All through her use of facial expressions is extremely successful, I love the way that unlike other actors she uses her lips (most striking feature), to convey her inner-most feelings to the same standard she does her eye area. I always find it hard to know what to do with my lips when not speaking often letting them follow my eyes. Gemma uses her lips, which makes the performance natural and altogether moor convincing. As well as this her flawless accent and deep dark communicative eyes give her performance an extra boost.

An extract where I think Gemma is pushed to her limits and blossoms is when her child dies. She sits perfectly upright looking blank, the motherhood that had shone in her face gone. She may have been expressionless but her clasped hands and wide eyes force you to feel her pain. The next time she speaks her voice is not completely empty, but detached, you would know even if you had only just began to watch, that she had lost something very very dear. This section displays her fantastic control over not only her facial expressions, but stance and voice as well.

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