Lilies (2007 BBC One TV Series)

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It was a dark and stormy night, so I binged watched Lilies streaming on Netflix. This is an older BBC One eight-episode series regarding three young girls growing into womanhood in Liverpool after the Great War (that’s WWI in case you need to know).  The series was not renewed, and as a result, the last episode leaves you with many unanswered questions regarding where do their lives go from here.

The story focuses on six main characters:

  • The widowed father who is a grumpy, angry man, yelling at everyone in the household.  When he drinks, he becomes violent.  He is called “Dadda.”
  • Billy the son, who is a closet homosexual.
  • Iris the eldest daughter who takes care of the household.
  • May the middle daughter who gets in “trouble” (the pregnant kind of trouble), having an affair with her married employer.
  • Ruby the younger and outspoken lass of the group, who frankly I had a difficult time understanding due to her heavy accent. However, she gives you a wonderful education on corsets.
  • A Catholic priest, Father Melia, who falls in love with Iris and is sent away.

The story follows each of their lives during eight episodes focusing on their various jobs that come and go, as well as love interests for the three girls.  The series is not the best, and since it was not renewed, obviously it didn’t do well overseas.  If you’re looking for a period drama, it does have entertainment value even though it won’t be at the top of your absolutely love-it list.  Apparently, it’s loosely based on Heidi Thomas’ mother’s story about life in Liverpool after the war.

The last episode leaves a huge number of questions about where their lives end up afterward.  Does Billy finally come out?  Probably not due to the times and the fact it was a crime.  Does the priest return as a priest?  Does he tell Iris he loves her and leaves his calling to marry her?  Does May’s lover finally return to marry her and be a father to the baby?  Does Ruby end up marrying the German butcher she first hated and move to Russia?  Does Dadda finally get to find happiness?  Alas, we shall never know.


Love & Friendship (Movie 2016)

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Oh, dear. I dare say that I may incite discord over my review of Love & Friendship, which currently has a rather high 98% Tomato Meter, with a 95% audience likeability rating.  However, I cannot give it a 5, 4, 2, or 1, but have settled upon 3 Kernels, having spilled many more on the theater floor – no I really did.  Popcorn bags can be so clumsy at times. After I stepped over my mess and left the dark abode at the end, I felt neither enthralled nor disgusted but rather neutral.

Like the other women in the audience, with sparsely a male to be seen anywhere, I probably had very high expectations of seeing a new Austen film. Perhaps I expected romance, but alas there was none compared to other Austen adaptations. I did find agreeable-looking men in cravats and fine clothing, beautiful English manor houses, and ladies dressed in not-so-Regency-type clothing. Costumes appeared to be more of the late eighteenth-century variety with no high waistlines such as 1790’s.

However, it was not the costumes or casting that I found bothersome, it was a rather chatty Lady Susan. By the end of the movie, you are quite thankful to see her in the background, rather than foreground, with her mouth shut.  Yes, at times, her conversational style, tone, and wit may bring a smile, but her character is difficult to engage. Through the majority of the story you find her motives questionable, her narcissistic self-center character irritating, and her cold regard for her daughter bothersome. She lives up to her reputation of being a widow and penniless flirt with a daughter of marketable age to wed.  With no home to call her own, she stays with friends and relatives until she has overstayed her welcome, at times leaving behind discord in her wake.

There are a few laughable moments, which are provided by a rather dimwitted suitor, Sir James Martin, for her daughter. It’s far from “howling funny” as some critics have raved. Only once did the audience laugh out loud over Sir Martin mistaking that the good Lord gave us twelve commandments instead of ten. The introduction of characters is a bit unique and endearing, showing their names with a short quip underneath them regarding their status in this tale of Love & Friendship.  Nevertheless, even with the slight charm, I thought the story dull, dry, and uninspiring.  I doubt Jane Austen is to blame. Of course, this could be one of her lesser achievements turned into a twenty-first-century adaptation that isn’t the most memorable.

Xavier Samuel plays a rather dashing Reginald De Courcy who falls for Lady Susan, to the horror of his family. He, by all accounts, is in his young twenties, while the Lady must be in her mid-thirties with a scandalous reputation. Kate Beckinsale is her usual beautiful self, however, her hair appeared a mess through most of the production. In fact, most of the ladies had rather wild hair, encircled with ribbon headbands.

I don’t know.  Perhaps I was expecting a swoon-worthy romance and felt disappointed over a woman that I did not find endearing or likable. Perhaps, I’m just starved for another Mr. Knightly, Mr. Darcy, or Captain Wentworth to sweep me off my feet with words of endearment that go down in history. None of those elements are alive in this tale and hence lies my deep disappointment. Perhaps, I should have read the original work first.

A Little Chaos (Movie 2015)

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Stars: Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman, Matthias Schoenaerts

Unfortunately, A Little Chaos has limited distribution.  It was only showing in one theater where I live in downtown.  I could have taken public transit and walked five blocks to get to the venue but kept putting it off.  Good that I did, because A Little Chaos is currently streaming for $6.99 on Amazon with a run time of 1:53 minutes.

It’s an interesting and unique story about a woman named Sabine, who has a gift for gardening. Yes, she has a quaint little backyard of flowers and trees, but her real talent is that of a landscape artist. She applies for the opportunity to work in the gardens of Versailles.

After obtaining the position, she is charged by the head architect, Andre (played by Matthias Schoenaerts who was just in Far From the Madding Crowd), to work on a special project that the two eventually design together.  The fact that Sabine was a woman of great talent did not mean that her task was an easy one, but it was eventually successful.

However, underneath Sabine is a woman of great sadness. She is a widow and has also lost her daughter of six years of age. The reason for her family’s passing isn’t revealed until the end of the movie. How it occurs is heartbreaking, so I won’t spoil that part in case you decide to watch the movie.

Of course, Andre, who is unhappily married to another woman, who possesses less than a stellar character, falls in love with Sabine. At first she resists because of her sorrow from the past, but eventually discovers solace and comfort in his arms.

Kate Winslet does the movie great charm. Her portrayal of Sabine is nothing but brilliant as all her movies. There is one particular scene that literally brought me to tears where she is among a group of women from the King’s court. The ladies sit together and talk about what ladies talk about, but the conversation turns toward whether she is married and has children. Sabine, of course, can barely choke out the truth, and it is then that the majority of the woman in the room relay to her their sorrow of lost children of their own due to smallpox or other tragedies. It is so touching, I could barely keep from crying. Sabine is deeply moved when she realizes that she is not the only woman carrying such a deep burden of grief.

As the movie continues, you are made aware of her gracious character, wisdom, and kindness to others that eventually lead her to a road of healing. Yes, the movie is about the gorgeous gardens of Versailles, but it also much more. The story is rich with sidelines about others who are close to the King as well.

Alan Rickman plays Louis, but he also directs the movie.  As beautifully touching as the story is at times, you may find it a bit slow in movement. There is construction of her portion of the garden, her interaction with the King and his court, her blossoming love for Andre, that all move toward the end at a leisurely pace.  Some may like it — some may not.  I wanted to push it a bit myself but later scenes redeemed whatever discomfort I felt while waiting for the story to unfold.

You will see many characters played by British actors that you will recognize – Rupert Penry-Jones (Captain Wentworth in Jane Austen’s Persuasion); Steven Waddington (who played the Duke of Buckingham in The Tudors);  Adrian Scarborough (who has done his share of British television roles including Midsomer Murders); Stanely Tucci (who has been in plenty of movie roles that you can remember); and many other well-known faces.  What you may find a bit unsettling is the majority of the cast lacking French accents from British and American actors, however, there are a few women who do have one.

Nevertheless, the costumes are quite stunning as well as the scenery and sets. The production was filmed in England at nine locations (click here to see where), including Hampton Court, which I immediately recognized the exterior and interior.

If you’re looking for a touching, but not spectacular period movie, you may want to check this one out.