Jude is a harrowing and mesmerizing screen adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel which takes place in 19th century England. Growing up on a pig farm, Jude (Christopher Eccleston) sets his sights on going to the university and broadening his horizons. However, this bookish stonemason reluctantly marries Arabella (Rachel Griffiths) who tells him she's pregnant. Eventually their relationship sours and she leaves him.
Jude seizes the chance to become a scholar and tries to get into the university. He's diverted by an intense relationship with Sue (Kate Winslet), his beautiful and free-spirited cousin. But when she learns of his marriage, Sue weds an older schoolteacher (Liam Cunningham) who first inspired Jude's dreams about the university. Eventually, the two cousins decide to live together, going against the rules of society. To support Sue and their children, Jude returns to his career as a stonemason.
Michael Winterbottom directs this well-acted story of forbidden love and its dire consequences. Although Jude and Sue are convinced of the moral rightness of their illicit relationship, they lack the inner fortitude and the flinty nonconformity needed to weather the tragedies which befall them. Jude lingers in the mind; it is blessed with some of the same dramatic firepower residing in the screen version of Thomas Hardy's Tess.