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South Riding (2010) (2011)

Anna Maxwell Martin , David Morrissey , Diarmuid Lawrence  |  NR |  DVD
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Product Details

  • Actors: Anna Maxwell Martin, David Morrissey, Penelope Wilton, Katherine McGolpin, Charlie May-Clark
  • Directors: Diarmuid Lawrence
  • Writers: Andrew Davies, Winifred Holtby
  • Producers: Angie Daniell, Anne Pivcevic, Hilary Martin, Lisa Osborne, Rebecca Eaton
  • Format: Multiple Formats, 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: BBC Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: May 17, 2011
  • Run Time: 240 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #55,938 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "South Riding (2010)" on IMDb

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

Product Description

From acclaimed writer Andrew Davies comes the lush series based on Winifred Holtby’s most acclaimed novel. When Sarah Burton returns to her hometown as headmistress she is full of ambition, determined to create a great school and to inspire her girls to take all they can from life. But in the aftermath of the First World War, the country is in depression and ideals are hard won. Lydia Holly, the scholarship girl from the shacks, is the most brilliant student Sarah has ever taught, but when her mother's health fails, her education must be sacrificed - there is nobody else to care for the children. Robert Carne of Maythorpe Hall stands for everything Sarah despises: his family has farmed the South Riding for generations, their position uncontested. Yet Sarah cannot help being drawn to this proud, haunted and almost ruined man. South Riding is a rich, panoramic novel, bringing vividly to life a rural community on the brink of change.

The BBC miniseries South Riding, a faithful adaptation of Winifred Holtby's novel, will charm fans of British and historical dramas, and of love stories for all ages. South Riding features an idealistic, spunky heroine in the form of Sarah Burton, played by the winsome Anna Maxwell Martin (who starred in director Andrew Davies's earlier spot-on period piece, Bleak House). The time is the early 1930s, when England is still reeling from the awful effects of the Great War, and, like the rest of the world, is struggling years into the Great Depression. South Riding focuses on a small, working-class town in Yorkshire, which just happens to be the hometown of our inspiring young heroine, who returns as headmistress of a local, failing girls' school, full of idealism and opinions. Britain's unforgiving class system is in strict effect as Sarah tilts against windmills to try to give all of South Riding's young women a chance at education and realizing their dreams. Davies's direction is unassuming yet brisk, as the viewer learns the history and lay of the land quickly, with Sarah's pushing back, gently but firmly, on the prejudices and sexism that shaped English society for centuries. With elements of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, To Sir with Love, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Lark Rise to Candleford, South Riding gives viewers a heroine to root for, and a lush historical period to immerse in. The acting is uniformly splendid, including Charlie Clark and Katherine McGolpin as two special young students who start at the school the same time as Miss Burton. And the town's mostly disapproving power brokers, including David Morrissey as Robert Carne, provide a formidable challenge for Sarah's modern ideas. Yet for all her willful independence, Sarah Burton also is drawn to the sparks of romance--which makes South Riding a satisfying journey for anyone who loves a good historical love story. --A.T. Hurley

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
58 of 63 people found the following review helpful
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Sarah Burton arrives in early 1930s a Yorkshire town, her hometown, to serve as headmistress in a girl's school. Is she an early feminist? The drama is conflicting, emotion interspersed, but the period telling is superb. Anna Maxwell Martin gives the Sarah character a believable struggle in this BBC adaptation of the last written book by Winifred Holtby. Equally stellar in performance is David Morrisey as Carne, a conservative farmer and politician initially opposed to Sarah. This farmer has a sick wife, a shy daughter, and plenty of opinion. Of course there is conflict as well as prejudicial issues dealing with others from the community and the school. Not really a romance, more of a study on characters and struggles of life in a time and place when one should know and keep their place.

There is politicking in the British style, especially through Alderwoman Beddows (Penelope Wilton). Council meetings do some havoc on the community and individual family situations. As a result, not everything turns up a bed of roses. There is struggle with recession. A truth quite realistic on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1930s. A nice period piece. Sit back and enjoy the characters and the interaction. Rural strength of people in a beautiful Yorkshire setting.

Character depth within the people of South Riding hamlet makes this worthy of 5 stars.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Originally, I had no particular inclination to review the BBC production of "South Riding." This perfectly pleasant presentation is far from perfect and yet it has plenty to recommend it as well. However, with only two other reviews, I felt compelled to chime in with the middle ground and present a few pros and cons of the miniseries. To rate this at the five star level indicating that it is at the top echelon of quality might seem to set unreasonable expectations. While nice, this is hardly on the level of the original "Upstairs, Downstairs" or the sublime recent version of "Bleak House." Everything can't be five stars or the classification loses any meaning! Conversely, even if you don't particularly care for the program--there are many solid elements (especially the performances) that would elevate it beyond a dismissive one star. So here I am, standing squarely in the middle--at about 3 1/2 stars rounded up for three very convincing actors (a strong Anna Maxwell-Martin, the always reliable David Morrissey, and the increasingly entertaining Penelope Wilton).

If this three part miniseries is guilty of anything, it is of having too much story to compress into its limited timeframe. Ostensibly the tale covers an entire town's worth of characters and story lines and three episodes is not adequate time to present them in an in-depth way. The heart of the story involves a local girl (Maxwell-Martin) returning to South Riding to take up a position as the school mistress. Headstrong and independent, she immediately clashes with some of more traditional town leaders--including Morrissey. You know immediately where this battle of wills is headed, but credit the writer and actors for maintaining a credible conflict without an easy resolution.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Uh...what just happened? October 13, 2011
This is the weirdest period production I've seen in a while, and a terribly disappointing effort from the master of the adaptation, Andrew Davies. Fair warning: I'm including spoilers, because I can't adequately justify my complaints without them.

Firstly, the pros. Anna Maxwell Martin is bright, beautiful and interesting. Her costumes are so lovely I want them for myself, and she is a stellar actress. I have no complaints about her performance whatsoever (although I do have some issues with the character). David Morrissey is also excellent. He has a knack for portraying both the absolutely repulsive (ie. Bradley Headstone in 'Our Mutual Friend', Stephen Collins in 'State of Play') and the terrifically endearing (ie. Colonel Brandon in 'Sense and Sensibility') and sometimes both at once (friendly/murderous Nazi Gunther Weber in 'Captain Corelli's Mandolin'). In 'South Riding' he's utterly convincing as a brusque Yorkshireman. Other stand-out performances include the always marvellous Penelope Wilton, and Charlie May Clarke, who plays impoverished and heavily accented student Lydia Holly with such authenticity it's hard to believe she's not real.

The landscape is breathtaking, and the sweeping cinematography very impressive. The score is very dramatic too. In short, the production values generally are excellent. Unfortunately, once you're fully invested in the characters and in love with the scenery, the director abruptly pulls the rug out from under you. For the sake of brevity, I'm going to list the awkwardly resolved plot points that left me scratching my head:

*I found myself wondering if I had missed an episode, or at least some vital piece of the action, as love interest Robert Carne (David Morrisey) and his horse abruptly plunge off a cliff.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing , depressing and disjointed May 18, 2011
I wish I could write a more positive review but I really feel only 2 1/2 stars is the best I can do. The plot of South Riding would do Thomas Hardy proud except that he would have filled in the spaces. There were so many possibilities here that were not explored adequately or at all and were brought to a hurried and jumbled end, and of course the overall tenor was grim. I did like the actors--especially Anna Maxwell-Martin.. All the central characters were well acted-- David Morrissey and Penelope Wilton were both memorable but were constricted by the script. I would very much like to see more of Maxwell-Martin because she is new to me. The scenery was, as many have noted, stunning, and it certainly got across the dismal quality of life in that era. However, there were just too many dangling story lines and too many things happening without adequate leadin or explanation, and it really was sooo depressing.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good yarn by the English authoress Winifred Holtby
A very good yarn by the English authoress Winifred Holtby, a friend of Vera Brittain (Testament of Youth - quintessential reading for those interested in a personal account of the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Miguel
5.0 out of 5 stars Tragedy and popularity
I watched this twice, months apart. I'm a bit of a wuss with tragedies so it was hard to watch, but very well done. Ms. Read more
Published 4 months ago by PBS Fan
5.0 out of 5 stars Fairly Interesting
I brought this DVD because I saw Anna Maxwell Martin in "Bleak House," and her performance in this film was excellent - I wasn't sure about the overall story of this film,... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Zadius Sky
5.0 out of 5 stars South Riding
What a good story. We are taken to a beautiful countryside and find out how people were living there. The story is something I and many more people enjoy watching. Loved it
Published 4 months ago by Donna Sommer
5.0 out of 5 stars S.C. Byrne - Professor of English Rtd.
I have just read all of the reviews to the film version of what is one of the most outstanding books written by Winifred Haltby. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Suzanna Byrne
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally fine
What a complete surprise when I saw this for the first time some time ago on Public Television. I immediately bought a copy for my daughter and then decided I had to have one for... Read more
Published 6 months ago by William C. Lloyd
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely happy with this purchase
My wife loves the British series "South Riding" after seeing it on the telly. This is a zone 1 (USA) brand new DVD
Published 8 months ago by Brixhammanx
4.0 out of 5 stars Tragic but real life
South Riding happened to show up on PBS one night when nothing else interested me. Though it seemed the dark side of human nature was around every corner in this series, it... Read more
Published 13 months ago by eurobloke
2.0 out of 5 stars This film needs serious editing or "Please turn on the lights."
I almost gave up watching this DVD as every scene was so dark. You could barely see the faces. Out of doors was fine. What was the producer thinking. Read more
Published on February 4, 2012 by samantha
1.0 out of 5 stars Parents Beware!
I am a huge fan of BBC mini series usually but I got this film out of the library last night and as I was watching it with my daughter all of a sudden without warning there is a... Read more
Published on November 27, 2011 by Michael C. Bryan
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