Category: Period Drama

Alias Grace (2017 Netflix Series)

alias-grace5 Kernels

WARNING:  Binge-watching a television series is hazardous to your health.  We’ve all read the warnings so I did take a break after episode three for one hour and went back for three more episodes.  What does that say?  I’m fat and unhealthy because I watch too much TV?  No, it means that Netflix hit it out of the park again as far as I’m concerned.

After being sucked into the Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, I have a growing admiration for the mind of this writer after seeing Alias Grace.  However, I never have time to read (only write), so picking up a book adaptation on screen now and then works for me. The downside, of course, is I will never know what is better – the book or the series.

Alias Grace is a wonderful and intriguing story that pulls you along slowly.  However, I will warn you up front that if you don’t like listening to one woman with an Irish accent narrate and talk for hours on end, this series is not for you. Nevertheless, if you are looking for a period drama set in the mid-Victorian period about a woman imprisoned for committing murder, take a seat and grab the remote.

After spending 15 years in prison, Grace has become somewhat of a celebrity murderess for her participation in a ghastly murder that breeds public fascination. A group wants to see her released from prison so they invite a well-known psychiatrist to do an assessment of her mental state. Dr. Simon Jordan (played by Edward Holcroft) interviews Grace.  In the process, while he attempts to ascertain her criminal mind, he becomes entangled in his own emotions of seemingly falling for this delicate but complicated creature. As the interviews continue, you wonder how much of Grace’s story is told for his benefit or her own as she weaves the tale.

AliasSarah Gadon who plays Grace is an excellent choice for this demure young lady from a poor upbringing.  After immigrating from Ireland to Canada, she leaves home and works as a maid.  It’s here that she meets another servant girl who becomes her best friend. When she passes away, she decides to depart for a new employment situation. It brings her into a difficult scenario with a lecherous boss and his housekeeper/mistress who is unlikeable and often cruel.  Another servant, James McDermott, has had enough of his job and plots to kill their employers, dragging Grace into the mix.

The interesting and mind-boggling outcome of the search for her guilt and innocence will surprise you as it draws you into the lives of these characters.  Apparently based on a true-to-life sensationalized murder that happened in Canada in 1843, Margaret Atwood takes the story to a new level for her readers.  Netflix has added that dimension for its viewers, leaving you with the not-so-concrete answer of her participation in the dastardly murders.

For each 44-minute episode, it’s worth risking your health for the four and half hours spent in the chair in front of the television.  Highly recommended.

 

Everything We Know So Far About Howards End

Another period drama coming our way.

Many are claiming the period drama could be the next Downton.

Source: Everything We Know So Far About Howards End

The Promise (2017 Movie) Review

promise_ver24 Kernels

Watching movies about the horrors of war in eras bygone are good reminders that the genocides of the past can repeat itself in the future. Whether humanity learns from its mistakes is yet to be seen. Even today there are no formal relations between Armenia and Turkey. To read about the brutality that this movie is based upon, visit Wikipedia.

This production shows a dark side to the Ottoman empire that attempted to eradicate the Armenian population. This movie is apparently released in a timely fashion since April 24 is the annual Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day. It’s also showing at only a handful of theaters in my area.

To be upfront, the critics have gotten this one wrong. They seem to be focused upon the love triangle, which is part of the story. However, the underlying message is not only of love between a man a woman but also love of family, ethnicity, and sacrifice. There also appears to be accusations that the movie was “hijacked” by a choreographed effort to make it fail by groups opposed to its release and the bad light it sheds upon the past. To read about it and listen to an interview with the stars on CBS News. CLICK HERE.

Whether historically true or not, I’ll leave to others to determine that point. I can only say that The Promise is a powerful movie that is heartrending on many levels. I left the theater in tears and fight back tears as I write this review.

Christian Bale plays Chris Myers an American correspondent with the Associate Press in Turkey before World War I. He is in love, but not married, to an Armenian woman, Ana, played by Charlotte LeBon. Oscar Isaac plays Mikael Boghosian, a young man who wants to become a doctor. He becomes engaged to Maral and receives enough dowry money to go to Constantinople to medical school but is not in love with her. His promise is to return after two years of school and make her his wife.

When Mikael arrives and begins school, he meets Ana and Chris, her lover. It’s here that is-the-true-story-behind-christian-bale-and-oscar-isaac-s-the-promise-too-disturbing-to-acknowledgehe falls in love with her during a period when Ana struggles with some disenchantment over Chris’ behavior and their relationship. It breeds the perfect love triangle, but it is quickly torn asunder by the beginning of World War I and the Turkish government turning against Armenians.

Each of them go their separate ways during these turbulent times with Mikael suffering at the hands of the Turks. Chris Myers continues to report back to the remainder of the world the atrocities he has witnessed against the Armenians. The remainder of the story is the struggle that these three face, along with Mikael’s family and other Armenians who are slaughtered or fleeing for their lives. The movie ends on a very bittersweet note and by this time who gets the girl is an irrelevant point.

Oscar Isaac’s acting was superb throughout the movie as much of Mikael’s life is the main focus. Chris Myers’ character is not as likable but redeemable at the end as he puts his life on the line to save others. Of particular interest, were the small parts of important stars who showed up in this movie. Tom Hollander plays another prisoner of hard labor for a few short scenes. James Cromwell also appears for a short stint at the end as an US Ambassador. With only a few lines each, I thought it interesting that they decided to play in this feature.

Is the movie sad? Yes. Is the movie worth seeing? Yes. Why, you ask me, should you torture yourself? Because we need to remember that history contains more stories that many of us are not aware of in our lifetime. I was unaware of this part of history, which always leaves me wondering if, as a species on this planet earth, we will ever stop killing each other just because our neighbors are different in religion, color, or ethnic race.

The sad part of these genocides in history is that they are often swept under a rug, forgotten as years go by, denied altogether, and not considered relevant in spite of millions of innocent men, women, and children who were slaughtered just because they lived.  Another interesting article on the subject raises the question – is the true story too disturbing to acknowledge?

Ana, aptly states toward the end of the movie, “Our revenge will be to survive.” And the Armenians have survived as well as a few in this movie.

Another note, 100% of the proceeds of this film are going toward charity, which is commendable, to say the least.

Victoria (ITV 2015 and PBS 2016)

victoria23 Kernels

While researching my own English ancestry, I found this quote from the local newspapers.  It indicates the deep love England held for Victoria at her death in 1901.

“The news of the death of Her Majesty Queen Victoria has brought much grief to the streets of Salford. Strong men could scarce restrain their grief. whilst wives and mothers broke down completely.” 

One hundred and sixteen years later, our fascination with Victoria continues. In fact, let’s face it, we are fascinated by the English kings and queens. To feed our need for more, a new production simply entitled Victoria arrived from across the pond to entice the former British colonies. First shown on ITV in the United Kingdom in 2015, it has finally made its way to PBS Masterpiece Theater.  Woe to us Americans, who must wait months on end to view British television.

For the past few weeks, I have tuned in to see this new version based on the Queen’s life. Unfortunately, I do not share the name “Victoria” since my birth certificate only says “Vicki.”  A part of me always mourned that my parents chose not to give me the full Victoria when baptized. Oh well…enough of that tidbit.

Victoria, the Queen, appears to have captured the imagination of many. Having thoroughly enjoyed the movie, The Young Victoria, which I previously reviewed, I find this version has a different slant to its main characters. Those of us who tuned out world history in high school are now running to Google to put in search terms for Victoria, Albert, and Lord Melbourne so we can read the real stories behind the lavish settings and costumes of this production. Beyond our own research, multiple articles have appeared online about the program and storyline to feed the frenzy. Everything from her marriage to Prince Albert to speculation about her sex life has ended up in the news.  Check out the list below.lord-m

So has this production met our expectations and given to us a satisfying period drama banquet? Since I occasionally stalk the period drama fanatics groups on Facebook, I have surprisingly met mixed reviews from viewers. I would say the majority are enjoying it but there are a few who have yawned from boredom.

On a positive note, women are swooning over Lord M and others are complaining about Albert’s annoying hair that keeps falling into his eyes.  What I find interesting about the Lord Melbourne craze, is that Rufus Sewell has been around for years starring in many productions both in the U.S. and U.K. Put him in a period costume, and the women are losing it over a middle-aged man. The love that Victoria supposedly nurtures for him in this version is by all accounts fiction since she wrote that she considered him more like a father figure. Nevertheless, a little eye candy for the ladies on screen never hurt anything.

Albert arrived on the scene, adding the intrigue of one cousin loving another cousin. Frankly, I cannot wrap my head around love with first cousins. Ever since my own made a sexual pass at me when I was twenty, the thought has somewhat turned me off. Nevertheless, these marriages were commonplace. Regardless of their family relationship, it became the love affair of Victoria’s reign, having given birth to nine children until his death that left her devastated. Not to mention the speculation regarding affairs she held later in life with Mr. Brown. If you are unfamiliar with that story, watch Mrs. Brown, the movie from 1997.

young-victoriaIn comparison to the movie version The Young Victoria and this Victoria, I honestly prefer the shorter versions to get on with the story. To add to the length of this particular production, we have the downstairs staff and their lives and love affairs, along with the upstairs life of the Queen and her court.  Of course, this is season one, and many more seasons are apparently to follow.

The sets and costumes are well done, and the lighting with candles throughout make it feel authentic in the time period. Victoria’s gowns are lavish as well as those by others, and the men are dressed in their finery and golden stitches that make you wish your boyfriend or husband would throw out his blue jeans. PBS posted a video regarding the making of Victoria and the set, which was built in an airport hangar in Yorkshire. You can view it on YouTube.  Pretty impressive.

Jenna Coleman comes across as a very immature, child-like queen playing with dolls, who eventually grows into her role as the monarch with the help of Lord Melbourne.  Albert,  played by Tom Hughes, is far different in personality, appearing inept when it comes to seducing women until he takes notes at a brothel. Frankly, I’ve not witnessed any award-winning performances by anyone yet because the scenes and dialogue do not provide the opportunity. And yes, I have become somewhat bored here and there. Perhaps, as the story continues, the acting will mature as their characters do.

On the other hand, Emily Blunt in The Young Victoria gave a much stronger performance alongside a more confident and capable Albert, played by Rupert Friend. I found this Albert to be more likable. The two portrayals of these historical figures are vastly different in each of these productions.

Regardless of whether you’ve yawned through the series on ITV/PBS or enjoyed it immensely, it serves its purpose for another period drama. As long as we crave these shows about kings and queens from England (occasionally sprinkled with a French monarch), hopefully, ITV, BBC, and whoever else will continue to make the productions to feed our addictions.

2017 will be a terribly busy year with more upcoming seasons of The Crown, Victoria, and the new White Princess on Starz. Let’s not forget Poldark and Outlander to add to that time-travel hangover, as well as a few more period movies hitting the big screens.

As mentioned above, here are the articles.

Victoria: Fact vs. Fiction – Lord Melbourne

Prince Albert: Is ITV Victoria Accurate?

Sex-Loving, Feminist Victoria is Not Your Mother’s Monarch

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