This 2000 TV miniseries is based on an 1839 Charles Dickens novel, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby. The film begins with the burial of Mr. Nickleby beneath snow-covered earth. Attending are Nickleby's wife and teenage children, Nicholas (James D'Arcy) and Kate (Sophia Myles). Because Mr. Nickleby died broke after speculating on stocks, Nicholas needs money fast to provide for his mother and sister. When he seeks help from his uncle, Ralph Nickleby (Charles Dance) -- a cold-hearted businessman -- Ralph refuses cash and instead arranges for Nicholas to assist at a boarding school operated by Wackford Squeers (Gregor Fisher), a sadistic overlord who whips and starves his students. Soon, Nicholas rebels against the inhumane conditions at the school, thrashes Squeers, and flees. A pitiful and sickly student named Smike (Lee Ingleby) joins Nicholas and becomes a family friend. After working as an actor, Nicholas gets a good job at a counting house operated by the kindly Cheeryble brothers. Meanwhile, Ralph Nickleby tricks Kate into meeting his friend, Sir Mulberry Hawk (Dominic West), who wants to defile her. When Hawk strongarms her onto a billiard table, Kate escapes. Enraged, Nicholas and Ralph become thoroughgoing enemies. When Ralph uses his financial leverage to force an innocent young woman, Madeleine Bray (Katherine Holme), to marry one of his cronies, Nicholas foils the plot -- then falls in love with Madeleine himself. Ralph tries to strike back at his nephew through Smike, but fails -- although poor Smike dies. As the production reaches its climax, Ralph learns a startling secret when he and Nicholas confront each other. The final scenes of the film reveal the fates of the principal characters.
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