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Masterpiece Classic: Small Island (2009)

Naomie Harris , David Oyelowo , Jon Alexander  |  NR |  DVD
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Naomie Harris, David Oyelowo, Ruth Wilson, Benedict Cumberbatch
  • Directors: Jon Alexander
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: PBS
  • DVD Release Date: June 8, 2010
  • Run Time: 168 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B003CP1T50
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,546 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Adapted from the award-winning 2004 novel, this mini-series stars Naomie Harris (Pirates of the Caribbean, White Teeth) as Hortense, a young ambitious Jamaican woman thrust into the grit of 1940s post-war London.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
141 of 149 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must See, Must have Book/Video October 11, 2010
By Linda Y
Set in 1948 post-war England with wonderful narration tells the story of how lives intertwine. Jamaican English Teacher, Hortense who felt that if she could get to the Motherland (England) all her dreams would come true so she schemes against her friend and marries her beau Gilbert but secretly holds out hope that her childhood sweetheart Michael will come to his senses and fulfills the dream they've always talked about. Then there's Queenie who married for convenience and finds her days caring for her shell-shocked father-in-law while her husband goes off to war. She then encounters a Jamaican man that leaves her more than she bargained for. Then there's Gilbert who wants nothing more than to be treated equally and to be a good husband if given half a chance. He was such a good person with a great sense of humor. He was just what Hortense needed to bring her down a peg. Any other man would've broken her spirit.
The book as well as the movie is outstandingly told with so much passion about lost love, longing, acceptance and the desire for a better life. It's just so amazing that you always hear stories of people wanting to come to America for a better life but to the Jamaican's, England was the big dream. It's really sad that the Europeans didn't receive them with the same desire. An absolute fantastic story.
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108 of 129 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect!....but something missing June 11, 2010
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
While selective TV viewing, I found Small Island showing on PBS and couldn't change the channel. I'm glad I didn't. What a delight to see Jamaicans portrayed with the dignity and class that most Jamaican's deserve. The acting was superb and I felt a kinship to all the characters, African and European. I was tempted to buy the book and finally purchased a book and DVD for my sister. The video with the narrative gave voice to the book and sensitivity to the subject. At the time, I felt no need to read the book, and enjoyed every moment of advice, cliches', antidote's and consciousness of love, life & passion that swept through every scene.
The revelations on the colonial history of Jamaica and the affection Jamaican's felt to the "Motherland" aka England, made the teachings of Marcus Garvey and the music of Bob Marley, even more relevant. It's no wonder Marcus Garvey was not accepted in Jamaica as he was preaching for Africans in Jamaica to look to Africa as the Motherland.
The struggles Jamaicans went through to live and be accepted in England after World War 2 is something that many people are not aware of, thank you Ms. Levy. I really love this movie and will share it with many friends, for its history and as a great love story that touches the heart on the many levels of joy and sorrow.

I absolutely loved the entire story, until the end. It left me with a sad question. Why didn't Queenie give Hortense the photo of the baby's father, she had it...but she sent her photo along with the baby? Hortense wouldn't of been too shocked, and maybe even finally happy (other than getting the material things) to know the child was the son of her childhood sweetheart. It was another eurocentric case of killing the black man's legacy.
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28 of 32 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Get out a hankie, Soap Island is more like it! May 10, 2011
If you are looking for a Douglas Sirk-type story (All That Heaven Allows - Criterion Collection), then this two-part Masterpiece Theatre "Classic" adapted from Andrea Levy's award-winning novel, Small Island will fill the bill perfectly. I originally sought it out because of Benedict Cumberbatch's (Sherlock: Season One) involvement but was taken by the compelling performances of other members of the attractive cast as well. It is set in Jamaica and England before, during and after the horrors of WWII.

The convoluted plotline deals with racial prejudice, wartime traumas, immigration, and an interracial love affair related in confusing flashbacks, dual-story lines and held together by a set of circumstances that strains the viewers credulity. Queenie, one of the female protagonists is portrayed by Ruth Wilson (Jane Eyre (Masterpiece Theater, 2006)) and I swear her life here is more bitter than Jane's was.

I did finish it but found it to be very unsatisfying, I would rather it had focused on the struggles of the Jamaican immigrants to assimilate in Britain as that part of the story was compelling but I guess illicit sex is more titillating!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Race relations during World War II in England April 16, 2011
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
In this marvelous British presentation from Masterpiece Theater of `Small island", we, the audience, get a glance at the racial tensions in England (mainly London) during the World War II period of history. Some very tense and trying times are reflected by two couples in this moving and well done miniseries.

The two couples are comprised of a couple from Jamaica (acted fabulously by Naomie Harris and David Oyelowo) that come to the British Isles seeking the "Motherland" and its so-called better life and end up renting a room in a "row-house" owned by the other couple which are two Londoners (acted fabulously by Ruth Wilson and Benedict Cumberbatch) This is really a very gripping story that kept me wonderfully entertained for three (3) hours. The hostilities and ugly occurrences that these two couples encounter plus sexual intrigues and a fifth character that causes both couples a great deal of happiness and heartbreak make for some really good TV viewing.

I loved this miniseries that is a greatly directed and acted. This Masterpiece Theater presentation is fabulous indeed maintaining the very high standard that Masterpiece Theater has always maintained.
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