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The Camomile Lawn
The Camomile Lawn
Actors: Felicity Kendal, Paul Eddington, Jennifer Ehle, Claire Bloom, Rosemary Harris
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
NR     2006     4hr 24min

It?s August 1939 and five cousins gather at their uncle?s big house on the Cornish coast. The imminence of war charges the air as they frolic on the fragrant lawn and tempt fate on the terrifying cliffs that one last sultr...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Felicity Kendal, Paul Eddington, Jennifer Ehle, Claire Bloom, Rosemary Harris
Creator: Peter Ansorge
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television
Studio: Acorn Media
Format: DVD - Color
DVD Release Date: 04/25/2006
Original Release Date: 01/01/2006
Theatrical Release Date: 01/01/2006
Release Year: 2006
Run Time: 4hr 24min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 14
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Highly engaging
N. Thomas | 06/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This miniseries delivers a stellar cast -- Felicity Kendall and Paul Eddington of "Good Neighbors" fame as Uncle Richard and Aunt Helena, a strangely mismatched married couple, as well as Jennifer Ehle, whose beautiful portrayal of the feisty Miss Elizabeth Bennet in Simon Langton's 1995 rendition of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" will be remembered by fellow British drama enthusiasts. Calypso, Ehle's character in "Camomile Lawn", was her screen (albeit small screen) debut.

Rosemary Harris, another veteran British actress, plays Calypso in her later years -- in real life, Ehle and Harris are mother and daughter. Cousin Oliver, another of the numerous Cuthbertson family relations, is played by Toby Stephens, real-life son of yet more British luminaries, the late Sir Robert Stephens and the unparalleled Dame Maggie Smith.

But to return to the family based on Mary Wesley's novel -- uncle and aunt preside over a halcyon summer estivation at their cliffside home in Cornwall in 1939. In addition to Calypso (Ehle) and Oliver (Stephens), there are brother and sister Walter (Ben Walden) and Polly (Tara Fitzgerald, whom some may recall as playing the free-spirited Topaz Mortmain in the film version of "I Capture the Castle"). The orphaned Sophie, portrayed magnificently by Rebecca Hall, features prominently in the storyline. Oliver, Calypso, Walter, Polly, and Sophie are all cousins, neices and nephews of the uptight, one-legged Richard Cuthbertson.

The lives of all the family members and their circle of friends is devastated by the onset of World War II, and each character breeds his or her own stripe of drama and delight. Calypso marries for money. Polly becomes a lascivious libertine. Sophie is dismissed to boarding school. Oliver joins the Army and Walter joins the Navy.

While some of the plot twists may offend some viewers, I found the overall strength of the stories and the wonderfully rendered characters overcame that (even if I had to suspend queasiness while Oliver constantly sought sexual congress with his cousin Calypso). Any fan of British drama should watch this, as I am sure it will not be found wanting.

Nostalgic and well acted.
Snowbrocade | Santa Barbara, CA | 06/19/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)

"The strength of this English mini-series is the gorgeous setting in Cornwall, where a group of cousins vacation in their Aunt's cliffside home and where grows the lawn of the title.

The onset of WWII shatters this idyllic scene. But we find out through the story that all was not as peaceful as we thought when the secrets of incest and child abuse come to light.

I loved the first three episodes of this delightfully nostalgic series. The randy sexcapades of London under fire were fun and revealing. The portrayal of the tendency of families to protect child abusers came out in the later episodes and was not so appealing. However, one wants to know how it ends!

The first three episodes get five stars, the last two are unfortunately not as good."
Excellent Period Drama
SereneNight | California, USA | 06/14/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Chamomile Lawn follows the lives of half a dozen cousins and their friends during WWII. The Chamomile Lawn itself is a beautiful old Victorian located on the cliffs in Cornwall. The cousins lives intertwine, intermingle and at times incestuous relationships form. I particularly liked Sophie, Calypso and the twins.

At first I found the series a bit difficult to get into. Some of the characters are cold and a bit selfish. Also the child abuse and the incest is somewhat distasteful. But eventually I found myself really enjoying the scenery, the characters and the involved plot.

4 stars."
A stellar cast makes for an engaging period drama
z hayes | TX | 04/20/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)

"My grand aunt recommended Mary Wesley's books to me recently and I was quickly engaged by her well-written stories. When I learned that The Camomile Lawn had also been adapted for TV, I knew I had to watch it and I wasn't disappointed. The period drama makes for an engaging viewing experience.

The story begins just before the onset of WW II in 1939 England. A middle-aged couple, Helena and Richard are making preparations for their nieces and nephews' arrival at their country estate in Cornwall, the scene of family reunions since summers past. The five cousins are made up of Calypso [a very vampish Jennifer Ehle, of Pride and Prejudice fame], Polly [Tara Fitzgerald], Oliver, Walter, and 10-year-old Sophie who seems lost and unwanted. Oliver, fresh from the Spanish Civil War, finds himself haunted by his experiences, whilst lusting after his virginal, yet catty cousin Calypso. Calypso declares from the very beginning [in response to Oliver's marriage proposal] that she will only marry for money. Polly and Walter are siblings, but very different in character - Walter is unassuming whereas Polly is bold and knows exactly what she wants. She also develops a close relationship with a pair of twin brothers who happen to be next door neighbors.

When war breaks out, the older cousins take off to London - Walter enlists in the Navy, Polly works for the State Department [in a position of secrecy], Oliver enlists in the army, and Calypso finds herself a rich husband, a much older man, Hector who has a tendency towards violence when he is drunk. Young Sophie finds herself confused and aimless, and has a number of troubling experiences that affects her emotionally.

There are many themes in this movie - adultery, pedophilia, grief, women's lib, any many more that might seem sensationalistic but are dealt with in a believable manner and also portrayed credibly by the stellar cast.

I thought the female actors did an amazing job - the over-sexed, materialistic Calypso is credibly portrayed by Jennifer Ehle [playing her natural blond self here] - and there's lots of nudity here. Ehle exposes all of her bits and shows off her luscious curves in many scenes that do not detract from the storyline. So does Tara Fitzgerald as Polly, a bit more practical and easier to like than the selfish Calypso, she is a feminist who takes responsibility for her sexual life [going to visit a gynaecologist for birth control], but makes some controversial decisions in her choice of bed partners. Young Sophie plays a tormented soul - an unsavory experience causes her much grief emotionally, and she is also the recipient of improper sexual advances from various quarters [though its handled with 'delicacy' in the movie so as not to offend our sensibilities].

The male characters are less appealing, though the violinist Max Erstweiler, a Jewish refugee from Europe is quite brilliantly portrayed - he is a genteel philanderer [if there can be such a term] - sleeping with all and sundry [in fact he works his way through most of the female characters here!]. Uncle Richard, who only has one leg, is a comic and also tragic character, harboring some very improper desires. Oliver and Walter were pretty insipid characters and I didn't much care for them. The twins were interesting but their characters were not fully explored.

This makes for an interesting and engaging viewing experience - it follows the characters as they traverse the period of WW II and portrays how their lives are affected by the war - one would think that wartime would impose strictures on one's life, and though it does, it was also a time for inhibited behavior, where the fear of one's mortality led to reckless sexual behavior and propriety was ignored. I liked how the notion of 'town wife' and 'country wife' was explored here.

This should appeal to those interested in WW II period dramas, focussing on societal and social changes on people of the period, both old and young."