Cranford (2007) (DVD)
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The BBC drama series adapted from Mary Gaskells classic novels of small town gossip, secrets and romance. 1842. Cranford, a market town in the North West of England, is a place governed by etiquette, custom and above all, an intricate network of ladies. It seems that life has always been conducted according to their social rules, but Cranford is on the cusp of change… For spinsters Deborah Jenkyns, the arbiter of correctness in Cranford, and Matty, her demurring sister, the town is a hub of intrigue - a handsome new doctor Frank Harrison from London has arrived; a retired Captain and his daughters have moved in to a house opposite and the preparations for Lady Ludlows garden party are underway. Everyone - from charming rogue Dr Marshland to mean Mrs Jamieson and her lap dog talks, and is talked about, behind closed doors. The town also has its secrets which it slowly reveals: Mattys encounter with an old flame at the garden party; Lady Ludlows gardener, Mr Carter, teaching a gypsy lad to read and write; the wild expectations of the May Day celebrations and - news that shakes the town when it is revealed - a railway line from Manchester is coming to Cranford.
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Top Customer Reviews
I watched it over 2 nights. It's a 5 hour miniseries and it is broken up into five 1 hour-long episodes.
The first 3 hours were very very good. Excellent, even. But the last 2 hours were absolutely perfect.
In Cranford, we meet many of its residents with most of the focus on 2 spinster sisters and their surrounding friends and relatives. Everyone is kind here and look out for their neighbors and generally want to live correctly and do the right thing. Their village has been like this for ages and the citizens have all known eachother since birth. It is an idyllic place and a happy place. They welcome new residents, too, with every bit of friendliness.
Cranford has existed in the same way for years, even though times are changing. A railroad may come through the town and most residents are against this type of change. For with the positive changes-- such as information, goods, and knowledge, there would also be negative changes-- more transients, less safety, etc.
The intertwined story lines here involve the two sisters, class distinctions, entitlements and expectations, a very funny love triangle, and accepting change and modernity.
One of the best stories involves the young son of a poacher (one who kills animals on others' land). The manager of the aristocrat's large estate takes the young boy under his wing and wants to teach him to read and write. The aristocratic Lady finds out and believes that those of this underclass should not attempt to learn skills outside their "class". Maybe worse, the boy's father finds out of the boy's desire to read and also disapproves. We find out later that the Lady isn't cold-hearted. On the contrary. She's kind-hearted and full of pain, yet it's difficult for her to recognize the times are changing and that some of her ways must change, too.
When a new handsome doctor moves to town, he immediately falls for Sophy. Sophy returns his admiration, yet so do 2 others who misunderstand his general kindness for more romantic intentions. This culminates in expected confusion, but the outcome is happy at the end.
Those watching Cranford from the beginning may take it to be an old-fashioned chick-flick. It's really not, though. It does focus on the women of Cranford more than the men, but the stories depicted cross gender lines. Change-- industrialization-- is the antagonist here, along with fear of change. However, as new medical practices save several lives, and a member of the trade class saves a member of the Upper class, it's also obvious that change, by itself, isn't bad. It can be positive for everyone involved.
This is a fantastic series. The only disappointment was that it was only five hours! I definitely could have watched another few episodes with the same interest these five held. Beautifully acted, filmed, and scored. The entire film was thoroughly enjoyable.
At the onset, the bucolic and fictional town of Cranford seems quiet and trapped in a former century. But nothing is ever quiet especially where gossiping ladies are concerned; and no "backward" town can forever stay asleep, not when a proposed railway which will connect it with other busier counties (such as Manchester) is about to disturb the peace and change town life forever. This is the foundation with which the storylines of "Cranford" are set, told in an era where change has been steadily making headways, and the social strata seem to be balancing out.
It should be noted, however, that while "Cranford" imparts to its viewers a sense of things on the verge of change, romance and social satire are still the order of the day. Making up the romantic aspect of "Cranford" are pairs of lovers who are kept apart either by mischief of fate, familial obligations, or class difference. Complementing these are subplots about a sister's longing for a long-lost brother, a mother's longing for an absent son, and silly feminine passions that explode to embarrassing proportions on two occasions. "Cranford" is also replete with satire, as evidenced by its comedy of manners. It spends an amount of its time poking fun at cackling and gossiping ladies. Ultimately, these gossips harm not only their victims, but also the perpetrators themselves, in more ways than one. Other themes of the period are the upper-class bigotry against the education of the lower-class, and also the clinging on to traditions that do no good in the end (as evidenced by Lady Ludlow's decision with regards to a part of her land.) Comparison is also made between the professional attitudes (and aptitudes) of the elder Dr. Morgan and the younger Dr. Harrison.
The descriptions I gave above may mislead you readers to think of "Cranford" as dismal and small. On the contrary, "Cranford" has a big heart, in the way its inhabitants show charity, neighborliness and compassion when called for. "Nothing like this is ever done in London," comments our young Dr. Harrison on the ladies' generosity. Even the prejudiced Lady Ludlow (played by Francesca Annis) takes a good turn when she spoke to the magistrate on behalf of a poacher who was also wrongly accused of assaulting someone in the night. Amidst all these, Dame Judi Dench plays the younger Jenkyn sister and she somewhat embodies Cranford, which is now on the brink of breaking out to the wave of social changes happening in other places. She had lived under the shadow of her loving but stern sister for most of her life, and we always sense in her some wild undercurrent ready to break out of the mold.
Dames Eileen and Judi, playing the two Jenkyn sisters who never married, are truly a joy to watch. It's so nice to see them in bonnets and in more congenial surroundings. See veteran performances in action (I wished that Dame Maggie Smith were also here, I so much adore her as I do Dames Eileen and Judi.) These two formidable actresses aside, who can beat this roster of veteran actors and other well-knowns who took part in the production: Sir Michael Gambon, Francesca Annis, Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, Julia McKenzie, Barbara Flynn, Deborah Findlay, Julia Sawalha, and others. The cast is top rate and so are the production values, which have always been the hallmark of the BBC television series enterprise. Fans of BBC's "Wives and Daughters" will not be disappointed with this one.
A point of interest: Hardcore literature buffs may not take kindly to the creative liberties that the filmmakers took with Mrs. Gaskell's works. In the Bonus Features Interview, they admit to changing the fates of certain characters: some died who were supposed to live, and some lived who were supposed to die. And yes, as with "Wives and Daughters" and "North and South," "Cranford" has its own lot of untimely and diseased deaths, in an era where modern medicine was just making early breakthroughs. One particular death scene near the end (where a leg needed to be amputated) might disturb younger viewers.
Speaking during the interview, producer Sue Birtwistle mentioned the possibility of a sequel should "Cranford" do very well. I'd be bold enough to speak in behalf of fans: We certainly hope that a follow-up comes soon. At five episodes, "Cranford" feels like a joyous ride that ended too soon. Fans certainly like to be "BBC-spoiled" now and then. If this were to come true, I hope to see more British veteran actors (particularly Dame Maggie) taking part in Mrs. Gaskell's insightful stories.
*Comes with English subtitles
five hours were over. But it is not just Dench and Atkins that make this
so wonderful. They are ably abetted by Francesca Annis, Julia MacKenzie
and Imelda Staunton. In fact every actor in the piece contributes to make
this the most watchable show in years. I hope at next year's Emmy Awards
this wins several.