By Lisa Schwarzbaum
Updated November 01, 1996 at 05:00 AM EST

It’s worth seeing Jude, a stark adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure, just for the extraordinary performance of Christopher Eccleston (Shallow Grave) as Jude Fawley, the stonemason in turn-of-the-century England whose dreams of university scholarship are thwarted. And British telly director Michael Winterbottom (Cracker) sustains a fine atmosphere of dank misery. But if you haven’t read the book, you may find yourself saying Huh? to the jumpy plot about two nomadic sad sacks strangled by class, religious, and sexual oppression. If you have read it, you may wonder why Jude’s cousin and soul mate, Sue Bridehead (one of fiction’s more fascinating women), played wanly by Sense and Sensibility‘s Kate Winslet, is so mercurial in her nonconformist attitudes toward sex and marriage. With Absolutely Fabulous‘ June Whitfield — Edina’s mum! — as Jude’s wise auntie. B