14 Costumes Repeatedly Used British Period Dramas

Have you noticed?

“One of the best things about watching period dramas is arguably the costumes. They play a huge part in conveying the full effects of the period, even if they’re not 100% historically accurate. Bonnets, top hats, spencer jackets, petticoats, and tight breeches: What more could you need in a costume drama?” 

Source: 14 costumes that have been reused again and again in British period dramas

The Nest (BBC 2020)

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Now streaming on Acorn TV is The Nest, a five-part British series. You’ll recognize Martin Compston from Line of Duty and struggle to understand his heavy Scottish accent. Rounding out the characters are Sophie Rundle and Mirren Mack.

The story is about a married couple, Emily and Dan Docherty, who are desperate to have a baby.  Emily cannot conceive and after years of trying, they are looking into having a surrogate carry the baby with their dwindling supply of baby-making material.  After a failed attempt with a family member to carry a baby to term, Emily has a chance encounter with an eighteen-year-old girl, Kaya, who agrees to be her next host for the hefty price of 50,000 Pounds. Apparently, in Scotland, it’s against the law to pay surrogates to have a baby, except to cover their basic expenses.  Dan is very skeptical of using a stranger, as he has a long list of requirements, wanting a baby birthed by a decent person.

Of course, Kaya, has a very dark background and a secret that eventually comes to the surface. Dan, the would-be father, is far from perfection himself. Emily needs a good dose of counseling as she is obsessed with having a baby, and pressures and threatens Dan the entire journey as Kaya’s pregnancy transpires.

This is really an odd series. It’s convoluted. Full of plot holes. Side stories that go nowhere and never get fully baked, and questions that don’t get answered. When you should find some satisfaction in the ending, you sort of turn off the television and immediately forget the series.  Perhaps it is the way the story was presented that makes it so odd to me and unsatisfying.  I wasn’t exactly feeling anything of much for the characters. Surprisingly, it has a 93% Tomatometer from 15 critics and a 7.2 rating on IMDb.  I’m not sure why I’m out on the fringe with this one compared to reviews, but it just didn’t float my remote.

Next, please.

The Current War (Movie 2019)

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You could be reading this blog post on your computer right now.  Do you know what runs your computer?  Is that AC or DC?  Huh, you say?  Well, let me clarify – AC = alternating current and DC = direct current.  Well, if you have no idea what type of current is coming into your house, you may want to tune into this movie about the men who brought you light.

The Current War is a fascinating movie, regardless if it’s not 100 percent historically accurate. Let’s get real here.  Are any historical Hollywood-made movies 100 percent accurate? I love period dramas, so I’m always off to Google afterward to find out the true story about what I just watched portrayed on the big screen.  By the way, you can thank Thomas Edison for inventing motion pictures.  If you decide to watch this flick, fly by the website History v. Hollywood for the true scoop afterward.

Regardless of the spot-on history, the movie is fascinating as it focuses on three innovators of the time – Thomas Edison (played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who by the way I give an A+ for ditching his English accent to sound like an American), George Westinghouse (played by Michael Shannon), and Nikola Tesla (played by Nicholas Hoult). These modern days we probably still equate Edison with the light bulb, Westinghouse with every appliance in your home, and Tesla with the slick, expensive cars you wish you could afford.

The timeline of the movie begins in 1880 and flashes through phases to 1893 when Westinghouse won the bid to light the Chicago World’s Fair.  It’s an interesting tit-for-tat race between two men – Edison and Westinghouse – to provide light to the masses. Edison is the DC man, while Westinghouse is the AC man.  They bid to be the providers of electricity for cities, while behind the scenes attempting to discredit each other at every turn. On the side, we have the young Nikola Tesla, first working for Edison and then eventually with Westinghouse. He’s another genius with ideas galore that are often stolen by others.

Edison is portrayed as a rather driven, eccentric. He goes to extremes to prove the dangers of AC current to humans, which I won’t mention here as it may keep you from the movie. (I see animal rights protestors here, not to mention the human rights protestors of the time.)  Westinghouse is a bit more subdued, but he has his own shifty way of making it to the top with his cheaper version of electricity.  Period costumes were spot on, as well as the sets depicting the time period. Acting acceptable for the characters they portrayed, although I do wonder if Edison was really that ruthless.

If you live in Dearborn, Michigan, a visit to Greenfield Village will get you a tour of Edison’s workshop.  As a child, I visited it often, not really knowing much about the man who invented the lightbulb.  The workshop was originally in Menlo Park, New Jersey, but was actually moved to Michigan and restored for people to visit.

I suggest you watch the movie.  Next time you flip the light switch, it may bring to mind the men who made is possible.  It may force you to run out and buy a Westinghouse appliance, or a Tesla self-driving car.  You know you want one.


Mary Shelley (Movie 2017)

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I have wanted to see this movie for some time and finally decided to stream it this evening off Amazon Prime Video for $3.99 rental fee. Cheaper than a ticket at the theatre, I thought it well worth the watch.  It’s well-acted, a bit of a downer emotionally, but gives great insights to the literary greats of the time period.

If you have no idea who in the world Mary Shelley is (played by Elle Fanning), I’m sure if I say the title of Frankenstein, that will ring a familiar bell. The Gothic masterpiece, originally written in 1818, with subsequent editions in 1823 and 1831, was “supposedly” written by Mary.  However, there is an ongoing debate on how much her lover/husband (Percy Shelley played by Douglas Booth) contributed to the story.

As far as this movie is concerned, the novel was birthed through her own painful life that included falling in love with Percy, the famous published poet, while he was still married. Through betrayal, the grief of loss of their first child, and subsequent disappointments, the men in her life became monsters in a sense. The story of Frankenstein mirrors much of the pain she felt as well as a sordid affair her stepsister had with Percy and also Lord Byron.

It doesn’t appear that the movie closely follows the true timeline of everything in Mary’s and Percy’s life. Once again Wikipedia tells a slightly different version and this fact-checking article on Refinery29.  Although Mary and Percy finally married after his first wife committed suicide, their existence waffled back and forth from adequate means to poverty. Percy drowned before he turned thirty, so their romance was not an enduring one.

Mary’s stepsister had an affair with Lord Byron and bore him a daughter out of wedlock. The movie does focus on their relationship as well. Tom Sturridge plays Byron as morally bankrupt with a personality that is almost sickening.  Byron doesn’t come across in this movie as one of the greatest English poets of his time, but more of a man steeped in debauchery.

What I find interesting in these famous individuals who wrote such lasting poems and novels is that they led such radical and free-spirited lives. Immorality, drinking, drugs — you name it. However, they also suffered terrible consequences and grief because of their actions.

The movie moves a bit slow and spends too much time with scenes at Byron’s residence in Switzerland, which are a bit of a snoozer. It probably could have been heavily cut and undoubtedly influenced the 38% on the Tomatometer. On the positive note, your ears do get tickled with some fine poems written by the greats and words from Mary’s Gothic tale.

“And the sunlight clasps the earth. And the moonbeams kiss the sea. What are all these kissings worth – If thou kiss not me?” (Percy Bysshe Shelley)

They say to write what you know, and if you read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, you will read what she knew – love, betrayal, abandonment, and grief wrapped up in her creation of a monster.

If you are into period dramas and the lives of famous writers, you might check this one out.  Mary found her voice, as they say, on the page.  Mine comes and goes like a ghost from book to book. Nevertheless, I enjoy movies about the lives of some of the famous authors of the past.

Archive (Movie 2020)

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Now streaming on Amazon, a newly released movie you can rent for $6.99 since you cannot see it in the theatre (thanks to Covid19). The only reason I tuned into this science fiction fantasy flick was to see Theo James, having gone gaga over him in Sanditon, wearing a cravat.

I usually like robot movies, and there have been a few good ones over the years. The most recent Humans (3 seasons); Short Circuit; I, Robot; Wall-E; Bicentennial Man (some of my favs), and if you need a list try this article, “The 100 Greatest Movie Robots of All Times.”  Well, Archive has your robots, with a semi-familiar trope of dying and you’re “consciousness” being downloaded onto a computer chip.  It’s been done in a few other movies, with the hopes of immortality.

Archive is just that. A person dies and their conscious essence is transferred into a machine whereby the family can continue to communicate with the dead person for a period of time.  Apparently, this version of transfer has a shelf life. Eventually it fades, and you still are forced to say your final goodbye.

Meet George Almore, played by Theo James, the computer robot-maker geek, who has his wife’s archive in a black box. He works for a company that makes robots, so why not use the tools he has to develop one that can house his dead wife eternally. He has made two versions already, each growing only so far, taking on a life of their own.  One has the mental capacity of a five-year-old and the other a teenager.  Now on version number three, she is more life-like, fully conscious, and he’s the happy camper to have her return. He gives her a humanoid body, clothing, hair, and he’s dancing around the complex with the reincarnation. Frankly, it would have been a lot better for the guy to go through the stages of grief and get over it rather than go through everything he has to try and recreate his wife.

Theo James has very little action with anyone breathing in this movie.  It’s definitely played out in the future, with high tech. He is held up in the mountains of Japan in a secure facility doing these things all alone, with his two first versions as companionship. He interacts with them in a loving fashion, because after all that have an itsy-bitsy part of his dead wife but they are not the full capacity he wishes. You will see clips of flashbacks of his former life with his wife and how she dies in a car crash.

Sound is a bit iffy in this movie, and trying to understand the robots with their tin-like voices can be a chore. There is a bit of mystery surrounding the security system that is always down, his ranting boss who comes on video chat, and a strange visit by the Archive people to check on the black box.

It’s the ending that will gobsmack you, and frankly, I didn’t see it coming until he picks up that receiver and he hears a certain voice. SPOILER ALERT: Think of the ending as a mix of the Sixth Sense and the Matrix.

Well, the movie is okay. Nothing for me to rant about. I’m not blown away by it. I should give it a three for Theo’s good looks, but the popcorn was pretty plain and the tropes recycled.