As I’ve been watching rather a lot of period dramas just lately, both tv shows and films, I thought I’d do a quick roundup of some of them. As I never read any reviews before I actually watch something (I’d rather make up my own mind!), I’d really like to know your thoughts on any that you’ve seen.
I talked about Netflix’s first period drama, The Crown, way back in February when it was first announced. At the time I was incredibly excited for its release and I have to say, I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. In fact I watched the first entire series within just over a week! I just lapped it up.
The Crown was originally planned for release in the Spring of this year but was then delayed until the beginning of November. It does make me wonder if this was due to ITV’s Victoria hitting the screens at the end of the summer. Perhaps Netflix wanted to wait until after that had finished. There’s definitely some similarities between the two, but then there’s bound to be with both shows focusing on a British queen and both Prince Albert and Prince Philip being the foreign outsider.
The first series (there’s a total of six planned) spans from 1947 to 1955, when a whole heap of changes occur within the royal household and the government. Of course Princess Elizabeth becomes Queen, but this isn’t the be all and end all of the 10 episodes, there’s sooooo much more. For those of you who aren’t up to scratch on their British royal and political history of this time, I’ll leave it up to you to watch this wonderful series and find out for yourself. I’d hate to spoil it!
In terms of the actors, Claire Foy, who plays Elizabeth, is good but I wouldn’t say outstanding. As a big fan of her work, I’d have to say that she played Anne Boleyn in Wolf Hall much better. However, the Queen has never really been the most effervescent character in real life, she’s always been poised, graceful and regal, just as a Queen should be, and Claire Foy does pull this off.
However, the one that stand out for me the most have to be Matt Smith as a delightfully playful, and rather naughty at times, Prince Philip. He brings a real intelligence to the character, something that I think isn’t always brought across in the media in real life. Philip is seen more as a bumbling idiot in today’s press. Vanessa Kirby as the more fun loving and modern sister, Princess Margaret, is brilliant, just as Alex Jennings is as Edward, Duke of Windsor. He’s exactly as I would imagine Edward to be in those years after he abdicated and moved to France with Wallis.
The Crown is rumoured to be returning in November of next year and will be set between 1956 and 1964. This period is quite pivotal in British history with the Suez Canal crisis having a clear and negative effect on the reputation of Britain and the Queen. One cannot wait!
The Crown is available on Netflix worldwide.
Close To The Enemy
I was so looking forward to Close To The Enemy, I’m a big fan of Stephen Poliakoff and absolutely adored both Dancing on the Edge and Glorious 39. However, this has left me somewhat disappointed. Yes, it’s intriguing, although you never really know who are the good guys and who are the bad guys, which does get a bit irritating at times. Yes, the sets are both lavish and grim, perfectly describing the state of London after the war. And yes, the costumes are stunningly gorgeous, especially Rachel’s wardrobe (above in purple and fur!). Yet, there’s something not quite right.
Firstly, there’s way too much overacting, particularly by the lead Jim Sturgess as Callum, and even Angela Bassett as jazz singer Eva. I honestly don’t know what they’re trying to portray. Then there’s Harold, played by the wonderful Alfred Molina, Geoffrey, played by Julian Bleach and Mr. Emmanuel, played by James Bradshaw, who all separately hang around being all mysterious. Finally, you’ve got Lotte, a young girl who seems to trust everyone who’s just a bit weird over her father and those actually looking out for her.
After three episodes (there’s a total of six) we’re no further forward in finding out what the hell it’s all about. We still really don’t know who anyone is and why they randomly choose to trust, confide in or betray each other. Yet, for some reason I still want to keep watching. Perhaps it’s because I’ve invested in it now, I’ve seen half the series, or maybe I just need to get some answers. Who knows? Perhpas I’ll end up just as confused at the end of it all but at least I tried.
Close To The Enemy is available to catchup on BBC iPlayer and continues with episode 4 on Thursday 1st December.
My Mother and Other Strangers
Oh, I really, really wanted to like My Mother and Other Strangers. I was craving a replacement to Home Fires and I think the BBC were counting on other viewers being the same. However, apart from Rose’s gorgeous Airforce blue coat (pictured above), nothing really grabs me. The story has been done time and time again, it’s predictable and is the polar opposite to Close to the Enemy, there’s no intrigue at all.
Hattie Morahan plays Rose Coyne, the English outsider in Moybeg, a Northern Irish village. She’s quickly joined by other outsiders in the form of the US Army who are billeted nearby. Next ensues the classic tale of handsome stranger takes local girl out and the local men aren’t too thrilled. Yep, it’s that predictable! The only surprise in the whole thing is Ken from Mad Men in an officers uniform. He does indeed look very dashing, but he really should go back to New York (or wherever he ended up) and be part of a fabulously engrossing US TV show once again. Moybeg really isn’t the place for him.
Unsuprisingly, the dashing officer and the female outsider form a bond and you just know what’s going to happen. This is particularly obvious because you can’t quite believe this intelligent and self-assured woman has somehow ended up in the back end of nowhere with a back end of nowhere husband. After two episodes I’ve given up, the gorgeous blue coat just wasn’t enough of a draw.
My Mother and Other Strangers is available to catchup on BBC iPlayer and continues with episode 4 on Sunday 4th December.
Let’s end on a positive note, shall we? I know Suite Française has been out for a while but I totally missed it at the cinema, and now it’s available on Netflix, yay! I watched it at the weekend and absolutely loved it. It’s got a quiet, dreamy feel about it, despite being set in France during the occupation. The beautifully sunny days, slow pace and beautiful cinematography all add to the feeling of an idyllic village being invaded by an enemy.
The story itself is ultimately a forbidden love story, but there are a few side stories going on too, which very much add to the whole film. It was adapted from the second part of Irène Némirovsky’s novel of the same name, which was published posthumously. Némirovsky was a Ukrainian-Jew and wrote Suite Française during the beginning of the occupation in Paris. After she was arrested and eventually sent to Auschwitz where she died, her eldest daughter kept her manuscript safe but never read it. Then in the late 1990s, when considering whether to donate it to French archives or not, she had a read of it and realised just how important her mother’s novel was and published it.
The costumes in the film are to die for, especially Michelle Williams’, who plays the female lead Lucille. I particularly fell in love with the multi-direction check dress she’s wearing in the photo above and I’ve already added a more detailed shot to my ‘Inspiration for 1930s Dresses I Want to Make‘ Pinterest board for future reference!
All of the costumes were authentic pieces, or at least were made in an authentic way. This was mainly due to costume designer Michael O’Connor using photographs, magazines and movies of the time, as well as the detailed clothing descriptions in the novel. This defintiely pays off and makes the film feel all that more real.
I loved all of the actors in this and thought they were all brilliantly cast. Matthias Schoenaerts is perfect as the sensitive and reluctant Nazi officer, as is the beautiful Kristin Scott Thomas as the money-grabbing mother-in-law. However, I did whoop a little when I saw Ruth Wilson, who plays the hardworking Madeleine. She’s such an amazing actress and I will literally watch anything with her in.
Suite Française is available on Netflix in the UK (please check your country’s version as these can differ).