Tag: Period Drama

My Cousin Rachel (Movie Review 2017)

Rachel4 Kernels

“Rachel, my torment. “

Do not expect to have a definitive answer at the end of the movie if Rachel is good or evil. You will leave pondering that question for some time and for good reason. She is an intriguing character, tormenting you as you sift through the lies and innuendos to find the truth.

I came into this movie unfamiliar with the outcome never having read the original novel by Daphne du Maurier.  Clueless as to the ending, I was quite satisfied as I left the theater asking the other four patrons around me, “did she or didn’t she?” Their responses I shall keep silent.

If you’re a period movie junkie, no doubt you’ll be running to watch this suspenseful tale of a very different kind of woman.  She, too, is a wonder woman of sorts, as you’re dragged along wondering about her motives through the entire film. It borders on the Gothic melodrama with enough suspense to keep you guessing.

It begins with the narration of Ambrose Ashley’s cousin and how he takes in Philip to raise him after his parents die.  Ambrose is like a father to him, but he becomes ill and goes to Italy to “take in the sun.” (This is England, you know, dark, gloomy, rains a lot, has gray clouds, etc.).  Ambrose writes often and eventually announces he has met a woman named Rachel, who he marries.  When Philip receives a disturbing letter from his cousin, asking him to come to him, he leaves. By the time he arrives, his cousin is dead and Rachel has left. Thinking that she had inherited his estate and land, he is surprised to discover that his cousin left everything to him in an unchanged will, which he will inherit upon his twenty-fifth birthday.

Rachel finally arrives in England. Philip, determined to confront her on the allegations she may have poisoned his cousin, discovers a very different female than he anticipated. With a charismatic personality and beauty, he falls desperately in love to the point of obsession. He rewrites his will and leaves everything to Rachel — his inheritance, the estate, and all the family jewels.

The relationship between the two individuals unfolds in a strange way.  The insinuation constantly lurks that she plans to kill Philip because she’s always brewing strange cups of tea that taste disgusting. Philip’s godfather warns him about her rather questionable character, but he refuses to believe anything until they begin to have contentious periods after she allows him to make love to her.

The film slowly unfolds but it is needed to build up the questionable suspense as the characters’ personalities are revealed and begin to interact. Beautiful daytime landscapes and candlelight in the evening add to the authenticity of the times.  It feels period perfect in the sense of costumes and scenery, but it’s difficult to come to a clear conclusion of who Rachel is underneath the black veil.

It is fresh on the Tomato Meter with a fine performance from Rachel Weisz (as Rachel) and Sam Claflin (as Philip).  Though some reviewers term it as a romance, I disagree with that analogy. There is no romance.  He loves her but there’s no reciprocation on her part.  It’s a questionable relationship between two very different people whose personalities don’t blend together in love. Instead, there is obsession and suspicion that makes for a surprise ending that you do not see coming.

 

 

 

The White Princess (Episode Two Recap)


3 Kernels

Some historical events and characters have been altered in the film for dramatic purposes.”

You’ll quickly miss this statement as the ending credits roll by the screen. Keep that in mind, as you watch Episode 2 of The White Princess.

So far, the production is holding its own. King Henry is facing his challengers to the throne from a ten-year old boy, a mother-in-law who practices witchcraft, a wife who plots with her mother, and a kingdom in the midst of the sweating sickness plague, blaming him for God’s wrath upon the nation. If that isn’t enough trouble, he has the diehard York faction attempting to assassinate him as he puts forth an effort to visit his newly conquered corner of England.

Princess Elizabeth of York provides decent counsel to Henry, defying his mother’s often ploy to run the country on his behalf. As he begins to have a mind of his own in matters, Margaret Beaufort tightens her authority over the York ladies in the household. Poor ten-year-old Edward Plantagenet, 17th Earl of Warwick, is sent to the Tower of London, which sent me off to Google to discover that eventually he loses his head at the age of twenty-four.

The production remains lavish in costume and sets, including the locations. However, much if it was not filmed where the  historical events occurred.  Here is a good reference article on the filming locations on Atlas of Wonders, with screenshots.

The series continues on a 4-star kernel rating, but I hate waiting each week for new episodes.  If you’re a binge watcher, best to take it in all in one sitting. Hey, what’s a mere ten hours in front of the television?

In honor of Henry’s visit to the city of York, which you really do not see in the series, I thought I would post my video taken last year. I, as a lowly commoner, sat outside the cathedral and recorded the bells.  Enjoy!

UPDATE: June 11, 2017 – Well, the series has ended after eight episodes, and though I may have been a bit gushy when writing the review above, I cannot in all honestly say it was as good as The White Queen. Perhaps the problem lies in the deviation from history, the rapidly moving timeline, and the characters themselves. Though semi-historically accurate about Henry VII’s personally (so I’m told by others), he came across as such a weak and insecure individual, that it was difficult to be loyal to the series. Does that sound odd?  Well, I suppose it’s “off with my head.”

The Moonstone (2016 BBC TV)

Moonstone3 Kernels

Ah, BritBox!  My second series to binge upon was The Moonstone, which is a five episode drama based on a  detective novel by Wilkie Collins written in 1868.  This tale is a classic who-done-it that will keep you guessing until you find out who-did-it.

The moonstone is actually a yellow diamond that has been stolen by a corrupt British officer while in India. The stone is revered, precious, and outrageously big.  When he dies, he bequeaths the stone to Rachel, his niece. Unfortunately, with that gift comes problems, greed, and danger.

Upon her eighteenth birthday party, Franklin Blake, Rachel’s cousin, has been entrusted to give her the stone now that she is of age. Once again we are faced with cousins romantically entangled with one another in the series as two vie for Rachel’s affections. She has a large birthday party celebration where everyone in attendance gets to see the fabulous diamond and handle it. Insistent that she merely keep it in a drawer in a cabinet in her room overnight, she discovers in the morning that it has been stolen.

The story is an interesting premises where the audience is brought along to remember the occurrences of that evening as reflected upon a year later. Franklin returns to England, hoping to win back Rachel’s heart, but he knows he must find the stone in order to do so. An interesting group of characters are all suspects, including Rachel, and the whereabouts of the stone and its current location remains a mystery. Even traveling Indian Hindu priests wanting to return the stone to India are suspects in the missing stone.

Of course, we are back in the Victorian era of cousins falling in love with cousins, and this time Rachel has two quite dashingly handsome men wanting her hand in marriage. If anything, the story kept me intrigued trying to figure out who stole the diamond, and the end has a few surprising twists and turns as the mystery is solved.

Apparently this is the second time this series has hit television, with Greg Wise being Edward Blake in an earlier BBC version in 1997. There is even another movie version in 1934, which is an American mystery film.  Who knew?  Apparently, not me because I’ve never heard of this gem (no pun intended) until I subscribed to BritBox.

Okay, I’m off my soap box.  It’s worth the watch.

Tutankhamun (2016 ITV)

TUT3 Kernels

I’m really frustrated! Thirty-five years ago I visited the Valley of the Kings in Egypt and walked into Tutankhamun’s burial vault. I’ve been trying to find the slides from that trip that I’ve been hauling around for thirty-five years to no avail!  Of course, I’ve moved probably twenty times since then. I know they are somewhere stuffed in a closet, and I’m going to find them one way or another!  Nevertheless…

My first Britbox watch – Tutankhamun from ITV – a four-part series about the discovery of the tomb in that vast dusty desert of the Valley of the Kings. It’s based on the archaeologist Howard Carter, played by Max Irons, who is convinced the valley still holds wonderful discoveries, while his peers are packing up and leaving out of frustration.

On the other hand, we have Lord Carnarvon, played by Sam Neill, who has the funds and enthusiasm to find a tomb filled with riches. If you have no idea who this English Lord happens to be, think of Downton Abbey and the manor house you’ve been enjoying for years. It’s the family home of the Carnarvon’s at Highclere Castle, who was the 5th Earl of Carnarvon. Some believe he was the first to succumb to the so-called curse, having died from an infected mosquito bite he accidently cut with his razor. It turned into blood poisoning, and he passed away in Cairo after the discovery of the tomb.

The story begins pre-World War I when Carnarvon arrives excited to dig and discover wonders from the past. He hires Howard Carter, who recently finds himself without support to further his own digs. As a result, they head off to the dusty sands but their endeavors are cut short by the beginning of World War I. Finally after it’s ended, the story resumes and so does their search.

Carnarvon insists that Carter dig in a particular area, but Carter believes it’s in the wrong spot. After going through the majority of the Earl’s money, he’s about to throw in the towel.  With one last plea to let him look where he thinks Tutankhamun is buried, they find the infamous treasures of the young King to everyone’s surprise and enter on November 26, 1922.

The story weaves a few love interests back and forth for Mr. Carter, the most important one being with Lady Evelyn Carnarvon, which is the Earl’s daughter. Whether that really happened is perhaps a possibility (read here). It does take up a large portion of the storyline in between the dirt, shovels, and rocks. The tale is also set among the rising distrust of the Egyptians against the British who promised to leave after the war but remain. The government, surprisingly at this point, changes the law six weeks before the discovery of Tut’s tomb that the ownership of discovered wealth reverts back to Egypt and is no longer split with the finder.

Max Irons, I thought, isn’t the best of actors except perhaps at that one point when he peeks inside the tomb and declares that he sees wonderful things. Only another spark of a broken heart is revealed upon his love interest’s departure. He’s a bit stiff and unemotional throughout most of the show, not to mention the dirt and sweat of the desert.  In spite of it, he does clean up nicely in a dinner jacket.  On the other side of the coin, there is the seasoned Sam Neill who is fantastic in all of his performances, filled with fire and emotion that makes up for the lackluster Irons.

When I visited in 1982, King Tut was not in his tomb. We saw the place where the goldTut2 coffins stood, which was just a huge empty space. There was no fancy lighting like you see in the picture. His remains had been placed in the Cario museum for some time but were subsequently returned to his resting place in a climate-controlled glass box (in 2007) to prevent further decomposition. Visitors can see him in his splendor. The treasures in the museum are unbelievably vast and gorgeous, and I can still remember standing before them in awe.

For my first BritBox, it was a good period drama, fueling memories of my past.  I’m on my second right now, Moonstone, which is turning out to be a pretty good mystery.

Ah, British television.  My favorite.

%d bloggers like this: