It is 19th century London. In the Court of Chancery a case - Jarndyce and Jarndyce, to be precise - has been dragging on for generations. Foggy and duplicate wills have ensured that a grand fortune remains tied up in court, no matter how much the possible heirs could use it.
Into the midst of this muddle come three young people who will be changed by it forever.
Richard and Ada are wards of the court and possible heirs of Jarndyce. Esther Summerson is a girl of unknown parentage who has been engaged as Ada's companion. All three of them have been invited by old Mr. John Jarndyce, the kindest man ever to live, to come and live with him at Bleak House. They all willingly accept and find in Mr. Jarndyce the best friend and guardian any of them could hope for.
But life never remains as it was, and unwanted suitors, mysterious parentage, nefarious lawyers and deadly illnesses turn everything upside down.
Will they survive the case of Jarndyce and Jarndyce alive?
Although I have not read the book, by all accounts this 2005 adaptation produced by the BBC is fantastic. And taking it on its own merit, it is a wonderful miniseries. The acting is fantastic, the locations are perfect, the costuming is wonderful, and the script --- (written by the A&E P&P's Andrew Davies) is brilliant. Like most BBC productions the only faltering point is the camera-work which remains somewhat jarring, though in a way that is perhaps not inconsistent with the feel of Dickens. Though unconventional the cinematography is totally watchable and I liked it better than I do most BBC work.
It is also very appropriate. Apart from a scene of spontaneous combustion (which is a little freaky/gross) and discussion of an illicit affair (but in proper Victorian language) it is something the whole family could watch. Younger children will likely be uninterested by the court case and the depth of human emotion, but the rest of the family should find this a wonderful treat to enjoy together over the upcoming winter months.
Dickens and I have a love/hate relationship. I love his "A Tale of Two Cities" and "A Christmas Carol" but have been annoyed by most of his other stuff that I've read. However several years ago I happened to catch the first episode of "Bleak House" on PBS and was completely engrossed. I always meant to find it again, but it wasn't until now that I actually managed to do so. I'm extremely glad I did as it is marvelous and human and accessible. But when you have such a stunning cast and a script written by Andrew Davies, what else can you expect?