Category: Period Movies

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.

 

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.

My Cousin Rachel – Coming 2017

A new period drama coming our way for those of you stuck in centuries past.  Looks pretty good!  A dark romance about a man who plots revenge against his cousin who he believes murdered his guardian. He falls for her charms.  Release Dates – June 9, 2017 in the United Kingdom and on July 14, 2017 in the United States.

 

Versailles (2015 TV Series – BBC Two, Canal+)

versailles4 Kernels

Finally, streaming on Amazon is Versailles.  The first three episodes are up to devour.  New episodes are posted weekly.  Is it worth the $2.99 per episode (first one free with Prime)?   Episode 1  Absolutely.

Versailles begins in 1667 with the 28-year old King Louis XIV on the throne. Tired of Paris, he wishes to remove himself and build his kingdom palace at Versailles, which was once a hunting lodge.

The series introduces you into the maturing young king as he attempts to control the nobility who are against him and establish his power in France.  As any other reign, his bid for supremacy is threatened by those who would overthrow him.  The life at court is filled with the usual intrigue that includes those loyal and those disloyal to the throne.

What makes this show work for me is George Blagden, who plays the young Louis XIV. He is the center stage in the entire production, playing a convincing role of a young monarch who is coming into his own among the wolves who surround him. At first, he appears unsure of himself, and then as time progressives, he shows that he can be as ruthless as his enemies, tender as any lover, and merciful when it’s to his advantage.  Blagden is a convincing monarch and a perfect choice for the role.screen-shot-2016-08-10-at-1_47_17-pm

The costumes are lavish, the settings rich with grandeur, and the story believable though probably not one hundred percent historically accurate.

My only caution is beware of the over-the-top sexual scenes including the king’s affairs with his mistresses and occasional intercourse with this wife. On the other side of the coin, there are homosexual scenes involving the king’s brother, Philippe, Duke of Orleans, played by Alexander Vlahos. Sex is not a silent subject in this production.

You might find this article and interview with George Blagden by The Guardian of interest on the filming.

The rugged heartthrob is about to be very big indeed – after landing the part of the spiffily dressed Sun King in this scandalous tale of sex, violence, and sublime shoes

Source: George Blagden on dressing up for Versailles: ‘Heels do wonders for your confidence!’ | Television & radio | The Guardian

The violence so far as been tame in comparison to other shows. It appears most of the intrigue is in the king’s court and in the bed of the women he makes loves to, siring all sorts of children in his lifetime.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a good period drama, I suggest you tune in and watch Versailles. It’s enjoyable indeed to see the lavish lives of royalty before their subsequent generations lost their heads on the guillotine.

%d bloggers like this: