Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Judi Dench, Julia McKenzie, Imelda Staunton, Lisa Dillon, Deborah Findlay
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense
Adapted from Elizabeth Gaskell's novels, the five-episode miniseries Cranford focuses on female characters in the 19th-century British town to thematically contemplate encroaching modernity in rural England. With the camer... more »
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Kendra M. (KendraM) from NASHVILLE, TN
Reviewed on 3/14/2008...
I ordered this from Amazon UK to be able to view this prior to its release date. I was not disappointed! Sadly, I had to watch it by myself because my husband didn't think he'd like it. He would have been wrong, by the way. It was exquisite in every way.
I watched it over 2 nights. It's a 5 hour miniseries and it is broken up into five 1 hour-long episodes.
The first 3 hours were very very good. Excellent, even. But the last 2 hours were absolutely perfect.
In Cranford, we meet many of its residents with most of the focus on 2 spinster sisters and their surrounding friends and relatives. Everyone is kind here and look out for their neighbors and generally want to live correctly and do the right thing. Their village has been like this for ages and the citizens have all known eachother since birth. It is an idyllic place and a happy place. They welcome new residents, too, with every bit of friendliness.
Cranford has existed in the same way for years, even though times are changing. A railroad may come through the town and most residents are against this type of change. For with the positive changes-- such as information, goods, and knowledge, there would also be negative changes-- more transients, less safety, etc.
The intertwined story lines here involve the two sisters, class distinctions, entitlements and expectations, a very funny love triangle, and accepting change and modernity.
One of the best stories involves the young son of a poacher (one who kills animals on others' land). The manager of the aristocrat's large estate takes the young boy under his wing and wants to teach him to read and write. The aristocratic Lady finds out and believes that those of this underclass should not attempt to learn skills outside their "class". Maybe worse, the boy's father finds out of the boy's desire to read and also disapproves. We find out later that the Lady isn't cold-hearted. On the contrary. She's kind-hearted and full of pain, yet it's difficult for her to recognize the times are changing and that some of her ways must change, too.
When a new handsome doctor moves to town, he immediately falls for Sophy. Sophy returns his admiration, yet so do 2 others who misunderstand his general kindness for more romantic intentions. This culminates in expected confusion, but the outcome is happy at the end.
Those watching Cranford from the beginning may take it to be an old-fashioned chick-flick. It's really not, though. It does focus on the women of Cranford more than the men, but the stories depicted cross gender lines. Change-- industrialization-- is the antagonist here, along with fear of change. However, as new medical practices save several lives, and a member of the trade class saves a member of the Upper class, it's also obvious that change, by itself, isn't bad. It can be positive for everyone involved.
This is a fantastic series. The only disappointment was that it was only five hours! I definitely could have watched another few episodes with the same interest these five held. Beautifully acted, filmed, and scored. The entire film was thoroughly enjoyable.
7 of 7 member(s) found this review helpful.
Extraordinary sensibilities from a different time, yet unive
Robert J. Crawford | Balmette Talloires, France | 03/08/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a masterpiece of historical dramatization. While faithful to the novel, it translates the action and emotion into a format for modern viewers. My family has watched this several times with increasing delight at the subtle personalities, the social issues that are evoked, and the lives as they go forward. The great accomplishment of the series is that, while often funny to the point of absurdity, it never falls into the territory of sitcom or burlesque. Instead, it retains both its realism and social relevancy in the most exquisite of dramas. The milieu, while superficially familiar, is in fact quite alien. Isolated, it is in the thick of victorian era, which can only be described as extremely rarified, full of rules, customs, and traditions that shape decisions that are astonishingly personal, cause mortal worries about the most banal concerns, and lead to intricate misunderstandings. It is always believable and emotionally accurate, never parody.
The cast of characters appears normal, at least for their time. There is Matty, whose elder sister Deborah is the arbiter of "the proper" in town. They look out the windows, judging people they see in the street and discussing what course of action would be best. They take in a niece, who becomes an intimate part of their household because she wishes to aviod a hasty (or perhaps any) marriage. A young doctor also comes to town, brimming with ideals and ready to work. Finally, the gameskeeper for a local aristocrat takes on the welfare of a wonderful child, whose family is part gypsy and dirt poor. As these characters interact and adapt to the changing world, more and more is revealed, to the point that their cares and hopes become beautifully, painfully poignant.
For example, as the young doctor establishes himself as innovative and competent, he is noticed as the most eligible bachelor in a town of gossipy spinsters. Though he is in love with a local beauty, two older women become convinced he is about to propose to them, in part because of his own kindness but also by a bad practical joke. When the situation is discovered, he is nearly ruined by the many assumptions people make about his motives. Another episode involves the sad resolution of an old love: the beau reappears, after perhaps 40 years, to the woman who refused him because her family needed her due to a personal tragedy. They loved each other the whole time. It brought tears to my eyes.
The overwhelming impression, at the end, is one of grace. You come to admire these people, hope for them, and even question your own behavior. Indeed, according to my wife, a principal purpose of the novels is to pose social dilemmas to the reader. Very powerful stuff. Also, unlike the all's-well-that-ends-well stuff that makes many Dickens' endings so sickeningly unbelievable, these novels often end in pain and loss, though the decent society of the town makes up for a lot of it. There are no deus ex machina solutions.
Warmly recommended. This will become a staple in our family's entertainment."
Another lovely series.
Atheen M. Wilson | Mpls, MN United States | 09/05/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I really enjoyed the BBC series Upstairs, Downstairs - Collector's Edition Megaset (The Complete Series plus Thomas and Sarah) and was looking for something similar to carry on my "life" among delightful families of characters. I found this series while browsing and decided to try it. While Upstairs Downstairs lives are conducted against a background of early 20th century transitions, including class discord, woman's rights, World War I and technological changes like the radio, telephone, automobile, and weapons of mass destruction, those of the Cranford characters are lived against one of equal change and social disruption.
Here again massive differences in the well being of the different social classes, the acceptable behavior of women, the introduction of new techniques in medicine, the introduction of mass transport in the form of the railroads, all challenge the status quo, making the everyday events of the lives of these characters--at least from our own perspective--a drama of considerable proportion. The fact that every generation, including our own, is faced with such changes allows us to understand the sense of threat felt by the elders in the series and the sense of expectation and hope felt by the younger people.
That the fear of the older generation is not necessarily justified as much as they think it is is also apparent, as again it is in Upstairs Downstairs, with each episode. Just as is the unwarranted expectation by the younger members of society that change will necessarily improve everything. The episodes show us, in fact, that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Mostly it's just the technology that changes. This is an important bit of knowledge for us and should moderate our own expectations, as we rush into an even more technology driven age in the 21st century and to globalization.
For those to whom this type of fiction is unfamiliar, the period is roughly that of the American Civil War in the United States and midway through the long Reign of Queen Victoria in England. The elderly ladies would have been the Miss Dashwoods (Sense And SensibilitySense & Sensibility (Special Edition)) and Miss Bennets (Pride And Prejudice and Pride and Prejudice - The Special Edition (A&E, 1996)), those of Jane Austin's pen, in their own neighborhood in earlier days and whose fortunes had landed them in the various social and financial positions we find them at the beginning of the series. Society, just as in earlier times, rigidly enforces its expectations and no one is left untouched by it. The elder generation especially, having paid its dues, perpetuates and enforces the code with ferocity. Lady Ludlow angrily refuses a lower class girl looking to enter her service for being educated "above her station" and insists that these orders of society need no education because it gives them "dangerous ideas" and results in the violence of the French revolution. Just as assuredly that change is in the air is reflected by the activities and attitudes of her land agent Edmund Carter who encourages the boy Harry Greigson, who has become the defacto head of his houseold by virtue of an inconstant father.
The cinematography of the work is lovely, as it usually is in a BBC series. The village and the housing in it are very realistically presented and thematically evocative. The character of each home clearly reflects the social status and financial wherewithal of the people living in them. There is no doubt, for instance, that the widowed doctor's wife has enjoyed some degree of comfort and social standing in the past, but that she has fallen on hard times since her husband died. The walls are dark with peeling paint, the woodwork is also in need of repair, and little of the gracious life is left except a few pieces of good furniture looking marooned in the large rooms. The presence of affluence but the absence of a woman's influence, reflected in the fine house and furnishings with noticeable dust of farmer Thomas Holbrook, tells of an elderly bachelor whose disappointment in love left him with nothing but money to keep him company. The respectable, well kept household of the Jenkyns sisters reflects their status as spinsters left with the last of a family's fortune and their own respectable characters with which to live out their lives. While the meager lodgings of Captain Brown and his family reveals their status of dependency on the good will of Major Gordon.
The costumes are quite intriguing. Unlike the more loosely fitting and occasionally provocative empire-waist dresses of the earlier part of the century enjoyed by the Jane Austin characters--and Empress Josephine--the gowns of the period are more confining, figure disguising, and "proper." Their yards and yards of material mean that few but the more affluent can afford them--thus making a less financially well endowed individual more conspicuous and avoidable in the marriage market. More importantly they reflect a society less sure of itself and more inclined to harken back to the grandure of the 18th century than to the youthful enthusiasm of the earlier part of the 19th.
Though the series is definitely a drama, it has frequent comedic events that are quite funny. The social climbing Mrs. Jameison in her little sedan chair being run about by over worked footmen in pursuit of the most recent gossip is quite amusing as is the outrageous tale of "the fate of the vintage lace." Although she drops out early in the series, my favorite character is Deborah Jenkyns, played with great skill by Eileen Atkins. She is a wonderful blend of rigidly upright elder with a heart of gold and a will of iron. Her sister Matilda, played by Judi Dench, has less to say for herself until almost half way through the first series, when it becomes apparent that she, like the younger character of Miss Brown, had given up her chance of happiness in marriage out of a sense of duty to her family. The dénouement of the final act of her lovestory, while very predictable, was none the less poignant in its impact and very meaningful in the context of Miss Brown's more recent and ill-considered sacrifice. The viewer is left in no doubt as to the likely fate of Miss Brown.
A lovely series."
A British Keeper
Julia A. Andrews | Peoria, Illinois | 07/16/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Feeling sorry for myself after multiple lung problems requiring me to take load of meds and time off from work (but NOT in the fun way), my darling Brit husband and I watched this wonderful BBC series featuring one of my favorite actresses, Judi Dench. Anything Dame Judi touches is pure gold in my Anglophile eyes and this was no exception.
A period British costume 5 part BBC series told in one hour increments, each one topped the other. Beautifully acted, staged and set, kudos must go to Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Lisa Dillon and Imeda Staunton along with Simon Woods, John Bowe and Francecsa Annis that make this quaint 19th century British village come to life.
Manners matter. Visitors may call upon you after 3 o'clock but not a moment before. The introduction of a new, young village doctor gets the ladies bosom's heaving, imaginations going into overdrive with misunderstandings making it only more delightful.
It is not acted in broad strokes but in small intricate ones that compose the moral compass of the entire village afraid of change whether involving a new neighbor or the imposing railroad linking them to Manchester.
I know its the middle of the summer, but I am putting this on my Christmas list. My husband is going out to pick up its sequel. He enjoyed it as much as I did.
My husband and this DVD are both British keepers.
Enjoy the show but keep your hands off my husband!