South Riding (2010)
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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
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Top customer reviews
The movie version of this book succeeds in that it concentrates the most important elements of the story into a relatively brief three-part series. I cannot believe that viewers and reviewers could not recognize that Mrs. Carne's return to her home is because Maythorpe has been turned into a mental hospital to serve the people of Kiplington. And the movie makes very clear she is beyond the benefits of more advanced treatment. And the death of Robert Carne: he suffers an horrendous accident when the cliff edge crumbles; he does NOT commit suicide. Midge "calms down" and appears to become a more normal child following her father's death because her rightful grandfather comes back to offer her a home with him where she knows she will live in comfort for the rest of her childhood. The grandfather is making up for his neglect of his own sick daughter, Midge's mother. He may also be about to repeat the mistakes made in the mother's childhood.
The movie conscientiously sets out to make the major points very clear. The levels of greed, hypocrisy, corruption, self-serving, serious concern for the community, and true altruism, are all clearly personified in the various characters. What is proved to the viewer is that wherever human beings try to organize themselves into a civilized society, there is no such thing as an ideal group of people. What this movie shows is that people are basically good and the events in human experience usually produce good at least for 90% of the beneficiaries.
When I set out to become a teacher of Literature a lifetime ago, I was determined to cast out the darkness of ignorance! This comment is one more attempt to be a beacon of understanding.
* Vera Britten from Ave Arque Vale - An Epitaph by Vera Britten
The class distinctions that were peculiar to England especially in the thirties after the First World War play a big part in this story. The girls are from very different back grounds. Some from extreme poverty and some from the peerage which does seem somewhat unlikely , but interesting.
Sarah also has suitors that add to the romantic in all of us .The only thing I didn't like about this movie was the depiction of a Methodist minister who is totally corrupt, also unrealistic . Why do authors always pick on ministers to be bad guys ?
I enjoyed this dvd -it appealed to my Britishness and my era.
civilization itself. The film is very well done, and makes its point beautifully.