3 must-see period films

Lost in Austen (BBC, 2008)


This show (seen last year on BBC) is a MUST-SEE for all Jane Austen fans!  It has a great cast (including gorgeous/talented new faces), looks beautiful (costumes, cinematography, lighting), and is full of humor.  There are jokes viewers of ALL ages will get, BUT there are also in-jokes for devoted fans of Jane.  (I liked those jokes best, of course!)

Amanda (Jemima Rooper) and Elizabeth (Jemma Arterton)

Amanda Price is a modern-day JA fan who enters into her fave novel, Pride and Prejudice.  She takes the place of P&P’s main protagonist Elizabeth Bennett.  But life in Georgian England is NOT as easy as it seems in the book!

The newest Mr. Darcy (Elliot Cowan)

Amanda meets the the entire P&P gang, plus a few NEW characters (Mr. Collins has brothers- LOL!)  Alex Kingston (ER) and Hugh Bonneville (Daniel Deronda, Miss Austen Regrets) are TERRIFIC as the Bennett parents.  

But the best part is Amanda’s complicated relationship w/ the newest Mr. Darcy!  As in the novel, Darcy is tall, imposing, and irritatingly proper.  (His voice is VERY cool, too!)  At first, he is shocked by Amanda’s (modern/odd) behavior.  She doesn’t want to fall for Darcy- she wants to keep  things EXACTLY like the novel.  But things quickly go wrong!     


An interview w/ Elliot Cowan:




Middlemarch (BBC, 1994) 


I bought this DVD a few weeks ago b/c it was a VERY good price.  (If you’re a fan of Austen or Dickens, you should definitely check it out!)  It’s a miniseries based on George Eliot’s most famous novel.  She (the pen name of George was in honor of her long-time love, George Henry Lewes) was a writer who could describe a wide swath of society, much like Dickens.  There are MANY interesting/young people trying to carve out a place in the world w/o compromising their dreams.  (These include Jonathan Firth, Colin’s younger brother, and the unusually handsome/intense Rufus Sewell.) 

Dorothy (Juliet Aubrey)

The main female character is intelligent, serious-minded, natural beauty Dorothea Brooke (Juliet Aubrey).  She and her younger sister Cecilia (a more conventional girl) were orphaned before their teens, so they live on the estate of their wealthy bachelor uncle, Mr. Brooke.  (The estate is near to the town of Middlemarch.)  Though she has many fine qualities, Dorothea wants to “do something more” w/ her life than what’s expected of a young woman of her time.  She draws up a plan for improving the cottages of Brooke’s tenants, but he doesn’t want to spend money on the project.   

Even though her youthful/outgoing neighbor (Sir James Chettam) is in love with her, Dorothea merely sees him as a friend.  But she quickly grows interested in Rev. Casuabon, a VERY serious/middle-aged/scholarly man.  Dorothea thinks that she can help him in his work.   They have a brief courtship before marrying, much to the disappointment of her family/friends.   

During most of their honeymoon in Italy, Casuabon buries himself in libraries while Dorothea sees the sights with handsome/young Will Ladislaw (Casuabon’s cousin).  Will paints for fun, but wants to find a profession where he can make an impact.


Back home, Dorothea is impressed by the painting of a beautiful lady hanging in her house.  Will tells her the story of the unconventional romance between his British grandfather and Polish grandmother (in the picture).  Sadly, the lady wasn’t treated very well by her in-laws.  As he tells it, she is full of quiet amazement at the idea of such a relationship.  (We KNOW Dorothea hasn’t married for love.)     

Casuabon is emotionally distant and refuses his young wife’s help w/ scholarly work.  Dorothea desperately wants to make him happy, but she grows disenchanted with the cold, lonely marriage.  But she never complains. 

Will, who begins work as her uncle’s assistant, continues to see her as a friend.  Casuabon suddenly prohibits Will from coming to his house.  Dorothea is shocked- they did nothing wrong!   Did her husband sense something neither she nor Will can admit?              

Dr. Lydgate (Douglas Hodge)

The main male character is intelligent, ambitious, and worldly Dr. Tertius Lydgate (Douglas Hodge).  Unlike most of the others in the provincial town of Middlemarch, he is a well-trained MD (w/ specializations done in Scotland and Paris.)  Most docs of that day were NOTHING like ours!  Lydgate is a newcomer who elicits much attention- sometimes of the negative kind.  The other doctors bristle against his techniques (such as warning patients against wacky potions and refusing to operate when not needed).   They feel he’s too young to overstep them.

Like Dorothea, he gives part of his time to the poor.  (They become friends as the story goes along.)  Lydgate’s an idealist who hopes to create BIG changes.  In his personal life, he is quickly drawn to the vivacious and chatty Rosamund Vincy, the daughter of a tradesman.  They fall in love and marry, though he’d intended to wait until he was financially/professionally more stable.   Rosamund dreams of status and money, ignorant of the goals he has.  Will marriage curtail Lydgate’s ambitions?

A GREAT in-depth review of this film:


The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)  movie_WindThatShakes

  We have a responsibility to attack the mistakes and brutalities of our own leaders, past and present.  If you lie about the past you won’t tell the truth about the present.British director Ken Loach  playing

You may not have heard of this film that came on recently on Encore; I saw it first in the BBC catalog.  It’s a glimpse into the Irish war for independence in the early 1920s as seen through the eyes of a group of very young men in rural County Cork.  At the center of the group is idealistic/sensitive Damien O’Donovan (Cilian Murphy- a native of Cork; The Way We Live Now, Red Eye, Batman Begins) and his older/charismatic brother Teddy (Padraig Delaney).  Damien is soft-spoken, slightly built, and well-respected for his smarts.   Teddy is tall, talks forcefully, and a natural leader.    harassment

Though most of his scrappy country pals are IRA (led by Teddy), Damien is about to go to a London hospital for training.  Then he witnesses some humiliating, unnecessary, and violent events perpetrated by the Black and Tans (British soldiers sent to quash the growing rebellion).         damien_sinead

He takes up arms quickly- his community needs him.  Even Damien’s long-time female friend is part of the rebellion- she works as a messenger.      bros

This film juxstaposes the beauty of Ireland with the violence of the rebellion.   In some cases, long-time friends are pitted against each other b/c they have to preserve themselves.   Freedom is not the only issuse; in one scene Damien examines a little boy who’s near starvation.  How will this rag tag group of guys defeat the soldiers?  When a compromise is reached with England, Damien and Teddy are pitted against each other.  

More info re: this film: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wind_That_Shakes_the_Barley_(film) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0460989/   cillian

More info re: Cilian Murphy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cilian_Murphy http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0614165/

One thought on “3 must-see period films

  1. Thanks for the kind comments and the link, Emma, and glad you enjoyed this production of ‘Middlemarch’ so much too. I also liked ‘The Wind that Shakes the Barley’, but never got into ‘Lost in Austen’ somehow… maybe I should give it another try.


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