The Winslow Boy (Movie 1999)

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Tucked away in the archives of past movies that I have enjoyed (as well as a post sitting in the draft stages for two years), comes a gem of a movie – The Winslow Boy.  Available for streaming on Amazon at this link The Winslow Boy.  If you love period drama, with lighthearted bantering between a male and female with opposite views, you will enjoy this look into an Edwardian family faced with a conundrum.

The Winslow Boy was originally a play, apparently inspired by a true story.  Ronnie, a young cadet in school, returns home expelled for stealing a five-shilling postal order. His father, played by Nigel Hawthorne, is a retired bank executive.  The household is a comfortable home that also includes a wife, a daughter who is a suffragette, and an older son at Oxford.

The crux of the story revolves around one point – did the child steal the postal order or not?  Ronnie’s father who is a firm and moral individual, pulls his son aside to get at the heart of the matter.  Ronnie, played by Guy Edwards, is reminded by this father, “A lie between us cannot be hidden.” The boy’s answer to whether he stole the note is insistent: “No, Father, I didn’t.”

Without an ounce of suspicion the boy is lying, his father mounts his son’s defense by hiring Sir Robert Morton, a top-notch attorney in London. However, it does not come without a huge financial price to the entire family, which includes the loss of personal items being sold to fund the case, servants being let go from employ, and the elder son being brought home from Oxford – all for the sake of clearing Ronnie’s name. The entire affair turns into a public spectacle as well. Everyone, including Sir Richard Morton, sacrifice to defend the boy.

jeremy_northam_rebecca_pidgeon_the_winslow_boy_001However, underneath all the legality of the issue lies a witty and fantastic bantering between Sir Robert Morton and the suffragette daughter, Emma (played by Rebecca Pidgeon). As male and female, they are at the end of the spectrum politically.  Emma is engaged at the beginning of the story, but as the case becomes more publicly embarrassing to her fiance, they part. Emma really is attracted to Sir Robert, but she doesn’t admit the fact to anyone, even herself I think. Neither does Sir Robert, played by the dreamy Jeremy Northam in his younger years, speak his true feelings, though he regards Emma with yearning each time they meet.

How does the case end? Well, I’ll let you find out and give no spoilers.  However, it is the iconic last lines that leave its audience with hope these two opposites find love. I should have liked to see a sequel.  Oh, wait, maybe I can write one!

Sir Robert Morton: Oh, you still pursue your feminist activities?

Catherine Winslow: Oh yes.

Sir Robert Morton: Pity. It’s a lost cause.

Catherine Winslow: Oh, do you really think so, Sir Robert? How little you know about women. Good-bye. I doubt that we shall meet again.

Sir Robert Morton: Oh, do you really think so, Miss Winslow? How little you know about men.

War & Peace (BBC 2016)

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Stars:  James Norton, Paul Dano, Lily James

I can’t believe that I haven’t written a review on War & Peace on my blog!  Of course, I put my two cents on Amazon but must have lost my senses over the handsome Prince Andrei dancing with Natasha.

This is my first viewing of an adaptation of War & Peace and an honest confession that I have never read the book. Though I knew the underlying story, seeing it on screen is another matter altogether. I cannot judge what is shortened, changed, good, or bad in comparison to the written original. Nevertheless, I am able to make a judgment on the BBC version even with my lack of Russian literature experience.

Since I did not have BBC, Lifetime, or wherever else it streamed, I purchased the episodes on Amazon for $2.99 each.  You can buy the entire series for $19.99, if you wish to stream it from Amazon or the DVD now for sale.

The first episode I found rather boring and slow, which nearly made me leave the remaining episodes untouched. Camera work and costumes were a bit out of sorts. If you don’t mind visions of the camera whipping you around in circles, you can get through it. As far as costumes, my first impression ranged from good to “gosh that looks awfully modern to me.”  There are many recognizable stars in the production, but those who shine are Lilly James, Paul Dano, and James Norton – UK’s newest heartthrob.

The second episode finally drew me into the story as the lives and personalities of the characters begin to unfold. By the time Andrei whirls Natasha around the ballroom dance floor, I found the perfect romantic beauty one hopes for in period drama. Of course, much of the romance is tempered by the brutal reality of war. One can romance in peace and then lose the one you love in war.

Paul Dano is a rather strange character as Pierre. At first you are not quite sure if he will do the part justice. However, by the time he’s starving and eating a raw potato, you will be reaching for the tissues.

Some of the lines are very thought provoking, thanks to Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel.  After watching years of war and peace weave back and forth into the lives of the characters (no thanks to Napoleon), these lines become even more meaningful.

“When our lives are knocked off course, we imagine everything in them is lost. But it is only the start of something new and good. As long as there is life, there is happiness. There is a great deal. A great deal still to come.”

If you don’t mind the slight slowness and oddities here and there, this is a well-acted and thought-provoking story of life in Russia in the early 19th century.

Hinterland Season 2 (New Episodes on Netflix)

hinterland2NEW EPISODES now on Netflix, more heartrending British television this time from Wales. The first episode has started off with a depressing cliff, once again meddling with the emotions of the audience.  No happy endings here — only tears, regret, and shocking revelations while the morose DCI Tom Mathias solves crimes with his overlooked female coworker who can’t seem to get ahead.

Read my review of Season 1 HERE and get caught up on the barren landscape of Wales.  If you like drama, this is another show to binge watch.  However, you may need something more lighthearted to watch afterward or go have a beer.

Austenland (Movie Review 2013)

Keri Russel, JJ Feild, Jennifer Coolidge, Bret McKenzie, and Jane Seymour star in the mildly (and I mean mildly) entertaining movie about an obsessed Jane Austen fan who sets off to England for a dream vacation. Her dream, of course, is to be transported back into time by living in an English manor house, filled with Regency era characters, costumes, and lifestyles.  Unable to find her perfect Mr. Darcy in life, she hopes to at least find him in a short, fantasy-filled vacation.
Unlike the series Lost in Austen, she acclimates fairly well to her surroundings.  Of course, everyone is really in the 21st century, though they are encouraged to live in the early 19th century.  The ladies pay to stay in a house full of actors from the footmen to the other guests, in the hopes that at their last night they have received a proposal of marriage from one of the cast.
Jennifer Coolidge, as usual, plays a rather ditzy blonde.  JJ Feild is the resident snobbish Darcy-type.  Bret McKenzie is the servant help, though he comes across as just another modern employee taking care of the horses and landscape. Keri Russell, who plays Jane (of course) Hayes, is the modern woman looking to fulfill her Austen fantasies.
Even though Jane arrives filled with anticipation, she seems to teeter between reality and fantasy. She has purchased the “cheap” package and is relegated to the servant quarters for her room upon arrival. The other guests are lodging in the opulent surroundings. During her stay she becomes attached to what she thinks is the real-life help, rather than being attracted to the snobbish Darcy-type actor.  As the story plays out, each character falls for someone either in their fantasy world or in reality.  However, I won’t tell you who is who.
The movie is mildly entertaining and not as good as Lost in Austen.  Probably the best part is when the man she eventually falls in love with declares his feelings. When she balks they are still living a fantasy, he says in his dreamy English accent, “But Jane, don’t you understand. You are my fantasy.”  (Or something along those lines.)  Then the romantic kiss.
In any event, it’s a weak three kernel story and currently streaming on Amazon.
PS – As for me, I’m not really a Darcy girl.  I’m more the Captain Wentworth type from Persuasion by Jane Austen.    “Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you.”