Saturday, April 24, 2010

Review of North & South (2004 BBC series)




For a couple of years now, I’ve gotten e-mails from Kristie J talking about BBC’s four-episode series North & South, urging me to watch it. As busy as I am, I thanked her for the recommendation — but I didn’t follow up on it.

Then I found North & South on Netflix and decided to put it in my queue ahead of Tristan & Isolde. It arrived last week, but I didn’t have time to watch it.

Last week was a very busy week for me, with lots going on at the Capitol and way too much to do at work. I worked every night till 10 or 11 p.m. and was so tired Thursday night after I finished editing our special edition content that I knew I needed to get to bed. I made the mistake of popping North & South into my DVD player.

I watched the first episode and then had to watch the second. When that was done, it was midnight. But I didn't care. I downloaded the third and fourth from Netflix and watched the whole darned series.

Guess when I finally made it to bed? 2:30 AM! Yes, that's exactly the right way to make up for stress and lost sleep, isn't it?

So, now, like Kristie J., I’m telling you that you need to rent this program from Netflix. It’s a desperately romantic series with two people who shouldn’t be together falling in love set amid the struggles of a Victorian industrial town in Northern England.



Margaret, the middle class educated daughter of a clergyman, is from the south, while John Thornton, who grew up amid poverty, is the master of a cotton mill, where the desperately poor labor all day in conditions that would make you and I cringe. When she first sees Thornton, he’s beating the lights out of a worker who tried to smoke in the mill — something that could start a flash fire and kill all of them.

Naturally, Margaret’s first impression isn’t a good one, but she is forced to spend time in Thornton's company — and that of his mother — when her father, who is no longer working as a clergyman, takes Thornton on as a pupil. Thornton finds Margaret to be ignorant when it comes to business and to worker/master relations. She sympathizes wholeheartedly with the workers without understanding how hard it is for him to keep the mill operating so that they can have jobs at all.

The class struggles that help shape this story fascinated me. I delve into those sorts of things in my own writing. I find the daily lives of the average person throughout history far more interesting that the lives of lords and ladies, who have always made up a tiny percentage of human society.



Though I wanted to strangle Margaret a few times — and I hated Thornton's mother at first — I can to adore all of the characters (apart from his bimbo sister) and cherished the evolution of this love story.

Thornton's mother is a character I really came to respect as the story unfolded — her loyalty to her son, her willingness to do the right thing even when she abhors Margaret, her sense of honor.

The script was superb. The acting was perfect. I forgot they were acting, actually. It all seemed very real to me. The sets were very interesting — how they reconstructed the machinery of a cotton mill I can’t say, but it fascinated me.



The kissing scene at the end of the series ranks right up there among the best and most fulfilling kissing scenes every. Yes, I cried — in part because I know I’ll never kiss Richard Armitage myself. (That’s patently unfair, if you ask me.)

Yesterday, I ordered a copy from Amazon, because I know I'm going to want to watch this again (like right now). This time, I want to watch it more slowly and watch it when I’m actually awake. The series has 9 out of 10 stars on IMDB, which is incredibly high for any film.

So here’s my official recommendation for you. I regret not listening to Kristie sooner. After all, I know she has impeccable taste. She’s told everyone on the planet about Ride the Fire, hasn't she?

What other movie kisses can you think of that just stole your breath away? One that comes to my mind is the kiss between Lancelot (Richard Gere) and Guinevere (Julia Ormond) in First Knight. That was intense!

I just popped back to add these:



25 comments:

Kristie (J) said...

Because I know you bought the series - heh heh heh - so many do after renting it, if you watch it with the commentary on - after many viewings without it *g*, the mill is an actual real mill. And then of course the extas - there's a hilarious scene with a totally adorable Richard Armitage giggling about some parts of the filming.
Another character I found fascinating is Higgins. I loved that he was the one that 'clued' Thornton in.
And I loved seeing the respect that developed between Higgins and Thornton.
Although it is a love story, there is so much more to this series than just the relationship between John Thornton and Margaret Hale - though of course I love that part best of all - I am a confirmed romantic after all.
And an interesting bit of trivia - did you know that in real life, the actress who plays Thornton's mother is married to actor Jeremy Irons

Pamela Clare said...

I didn't know that, but too cool. She was amazing. I didn't know whether to hate her or not, but then I ended up really respecting her.

I LOVED that part about Higgins, too. I loved him and his Bess as characters to begin with, but when he and Thornton grew to trust one another and even respect one another — talk about character growth.

It really was a fantastic series. And I DO plan to watch it with commentary on. There was commentary on the NetFlix disks, but I'd have been up till six in the morning then. LOL!

Thanks for the great recommendation, Kristie. It was truly wonderful. Ten out of 10 stars from me.

Kristie (J) said...

You're most welcome *huge grin*. And to answer your question - while the one in North and South is far and away my favourite, some other good ones is the one between Nathaniel and Cora in Last of the Mohicans on the roof - that was pretty fine. And other one is in the movie The Outsider based on a book by Penelope Williamson (another excellent movie I highly recommend ;-)) between Johnny (Tim Daly) and Rebecca (Naomi Watts)

Pamela Clare said...

Oh, YES! How could I forget that??? Nathaniel and Cora in Fort Billy-Hank (that's what I call it in my own mind anyway), otherwise known as William Henry. Such a hot kissing scene!

I'll have to look at the other one. I haven't heard of it.

I have to say that Richard Gere just isn't my idea of Lancelot. Watching that clip, the kiss was still hot but the whole scene felt dated.

The kiss from N&S is much more romantic, I agree.

Nathaniel and Cora... That might be my favorite... Hmmm. Such tough choices. Gotta go find it on YouTube now. LOL!

Jennie Marsland said...

I definitely have to see this series. I've seen clips on YouTube and it looks amazing. As for movie kisses, the one at the end of The Return Of The King rates pretty high with me.

Pamela Clare said...

Hi, Jennie — I'm absolutely certain you'd love it.

As for that kiss at the end of LOTR:ROTK — that's another legendary one. You're absolutely right! Actually, I thought of that last night, too.

Great minds and all...

Mary G said...

Hi Pamela
I swear KristieJ is like a drug dealer. She's gotten me hooked on so many books with her recs.
I too think the kiss at the end of LOTR-ROTK is awesome made more so bu Viggo who I crushed on for the whole series. Enjoy your Sunday.

Jennie Marsland said...

Have you watched the extra "making of" stuff that comes with LOTR? It's fascinating. Remember the scene in Two Towers where exhausted Aragorn pushes back the huge castle doors and walks in to tell Theoden that the Orcs are coming? Apparently that was filmed around Viggo's birthday, and as prank, everyone got naked for one take. He opened the doors and there they were.

Debbie H said...

OK, I am such a sap, both clips had me crying and hot at the same time. There is nothing like excellent kissing scenes. Loved, loved, loved Last of the Mojicans!

Thank's Kristie J, for turning PC onto North and South. LOL

RitaSV said...

OMG!!!! I LOVE the kissing scene in North and South! Armitage as Thornton is just scrumptious....I would have liked to see a little more emotion out of Daniela Denby-Ashe. Good grief, if he had kissed me like that I would have melted all over the train platform. Seriously. He looks at her like he'd like to eat her up with a spoon! LOL

One of my favorite movies, The Quiet Man, has several nummy kisses one of which is in the rain. 'sigh'

I'm not a fan of Kirsten Dunst but the upsidedown Spiderman kiss was pretty nummy.

And the scene in Its a Wonderful Life when Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed are talking on same phone...

There's an amazing scene in 'Maybe Baby' with Joely Richardson and James Purefoy that is just...well...gulp...Is it hot in here or is it just me? This fan video contains that scene amongst others.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AdfApSRzBoI

Christine said...

I LOVE NORTHA AND SOUTH!!! You've really never seen it? I watched it online a few years ago and ordered it before I had even watched the whole thing!
PS- i saw the broncos picked tebow... lucky. I'm in love with him

Pamela Clare said...

Hi, Jennie — I own every edition of LOTR that's been released and have watched all the extras so many times. I absolute ADORE Viggo. For starters, he's amazingly talented and sexy in a very male (non-metrosexual) way. And he's Danish. I could speak to him in Danish and just knowing that is a thrill.

LOTR fanatic here. :-)

Mary G, Kristie is kind of like a crack dealer, isn't she? LOL! I think this means I'm going to have to try that book she's been raving on about for a year or more — BROKEN WING. She likes it more than RIDE THE FIRE, so that means I need to read it. Period.

Hi, Debbie — LAST OF THE MOHICANS is a fave film for me, for sure. I love that period of history. Duh. LOL!

Hi, Rita — Isn't Richard Armitage amazing? My guess is that's not his natural accent, either. I found the accents fascinating.

And I adore James Purefoy. I liked him in A KNIGHT'S TALE. He made me hate him as Marc Anthony, but that's the sign of a great actor. Lots of nekkid James Purefoy in ROME... which I have on DVD, since I don't get cable.

Thanks for the link! I'll check it out.

Pamela Clare said...

Hi, Christine — Nope, I had never seen it till this past Thursday night. Loved it, though.

I'll confess that for some reason I had it in my head that it was about the Civil War, and I just wasn't interested. I had watched a clip and thought their accents were strange. What can I say? Sometimes in my hurried crazy life my brain doesn't work terribly well.

I had no idea where it was set until I started watching it.

I think I can feel Kristie rolling her eyes... :-)

Kristie (J) said...

Pamela! I didn't know you were a LOTR fanatic!! Me too - and yes, I also own every edition except in BlueRay.
The night Ron and I first me, I discovered he was a reader just like I was and I had been reading the books. He read them and really enjoyed them too - we got all the calendars and everything.
It was Ron's birthday the day Fellowship of the Ring came out and for the first and only time in our marriage, I knew EXACTLY what to get him *g*, dinner and then a trip to the movies to see it.

Pamela Clare said...

Kristie! Oh, yes! I'm the world's biggest LOTR geek. I have an Elvish name that Benjy gave me (it means "Lover of Birds," which is me in a nutshell). And I have a 6-foot-tall cut out of Strider/Viggo that has stood in my living room for YEARS. I don't have a Blu-Ray player, so I don't have the film on Blu-Ray, but I've got the theatrical release, the extended versions, the special editions...

I saw LOTR:FOTR 16 times in the theater. I saw LOTR:TTT eight times. Then ROTK I was only able to go about five times because WRITING BOOKS kept interfering. (What's with that????)

I hope you and I can sit one day with a plate of my world famous chocolate-chipless chocolate chip cookies and watch the whole trilogy. If you come to RomCon, we'll have to work that out somehow.

There simply isn't a fantasy film or a trilogy that can been that one, IMHO. And I'm a Trekkie, so you'd think I'd be all like, "Whoa, Star Trek." But it's LOTR. ;-)

Leslieg said...

The mill scenes were actually filmed at three different mills: Dalton Mills in Keighley for the exterior shots, Helmshore Mills at Helmshore for the office shots, and Queen Street Mills in Burnley for the machinery, which actually still runs. The chap in one of the early shots of the mill runs the machines daily, and it makes a frightful racket!!! Fascinating places to visit.

Pamela Clare said...

I find that fascinating, Leslie. Do they still manufacture cotton cloth there or is the mill an operation museum of sorts?

I never knew people could die from "fluff" in their lungs, but I guess that makes sense. Lungs really need nothing in them but air, right?

Thanks for the information! I appreciate it!

Leslieg said...

There's cotton manufactured at both Queen Street and Helmshore, which also has a woollen section. Both are open as museums and fascinating for anyone with an interest in the Industrial Revolution. Dalton Mill is now offices and the like.

BTW, in many of his roles, Richard uses different regional accents, many of them in northern England. In N&S, it's Mancunian, as Mrs Gaskell based Milton on Manchester. Her husband was a Unitarian minister, and she knew many mill owners, so she was very familiar with the milieu she wrote about in N&S.

Marg said...

Yay, another N and S Crusader! I think that the kiss at the train station is my favourite movie kiss ever!

As for not getting to kiss Richard Armitage, I don't think it will ever happen for me either, but it doesn't hurt to dream!

Kwana said...

I'm so happy to meet another Crusader! It's a mighty fine crew. When Megan pulled me over to Kristie's side I lost a full day too where nothing got done I only had eyes for Richard. Now I want to watch it all over again.
It's hard to think of another kissing scene with that one in my head.

Anonymous said...

Not to dish on Netflix, but you can borrow this on DVD from your local library for free!

Anonymous said...

(From K. ODoharty)

Pamela: You can't know how tickled I was when I saw your blog at GR and you were writing about my all time fav. mini-series/movie N&S!! Just reading your synopsis and enthusiasim made me want to pop it in the player! Like Kristie J, I've been a long time fan of both Gaskill's book and the BBC could not have brought it to life any better. I vote this as the best movie kiss EVER! Now . . . when can we get the BBC to bring "Surrender" to the screen!!! :D


For another GREAT love story/movie kiss(es) . . . brush up on your Italian (or Spanish) and jump over to Youtube and watch "La Figlia de Elisa" ("The Daughter of Elisa") with the ever romantic and truly "hero" material actor Giulio Berruti! Even if your Italian is no good . . . you won't need it to follow the story! Like N&S, I think it's all about the chemistry of the actors on screen. Berruti and Sarah Felberbaum have it in spades as well. Here's a link of highlights. I'm officially starting a 2-year nag for you and Kristie J. to eventually "get around" to it - LOL! :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7amXHw25-0&NR=1

K.

JulieMarie said...

I just want to urge everyone who posted here, including Pamela herself, to actually read the book North and South. Like everyone here, I learned about the movie from Kristie's blog, and watched it, and loved it, but we're all readers, aren't we? And Elizabeth Gaskell's novel is even better than the movie. She delves very deeply and poiginantly into what Mr. Thornton is thinking and feeling and yearning for. (The book has some tedious chapters in a tough rendition of Higgins's dialect, and you just have to plow/skim through those, but it is well worth it.) It truly rivals anything by Jane Austen!

JulieMarie said...

From "North and South" by Elizabeth Gaskell: "It appeared to Mr. Thornton that all these graceful cares were habitual to the family; and especially of a piece with Margaret. She stood by the tea-table in a light-colored muslin gown, which had a good deal of pink about it. She looked as if she was not attending to the conversation, but solely busy with the tea-cups, among which her round ivory hands moved with pretty, noiseless daintiness. She had a bracelet on one taper arm, which would fall down over her round wrist. Mr. Thornton watched the re-placing of this troublesome ornament with far more attention than he listened to her father. It seemed as if it fascinated him to see her push it up impatiently, until it tightened her soft flesh; and then to mark the loosening—the fall."

Jodi S said...

I've never left a comment on a blog before but I found Kristie J's blog from Lisa Kleypas' website and then I arrived here to Pamela's website. I've been here before because I love your books, Pamela. I decided to weigh in on the Richard Armitage/N&S discussion. I also love N&S and Richard Armitage. I 1st watched N&S on Netflix some years ago then immediately ordered it on DVD. I've been enjoying Richard on Robin Hood too, and he's now on MI-5 which is an incredible BBC series. I just added it to my Netflex queue. I thought many of you would also like some recommendations on some other British actors and some movies/TV series they've been in. One of my favorite movies is called "Dear Frankie" with actor Gerard Butler. It has an amazing kiss between Butler and Emily Mortimer. Also, I love Clive Owen who was wonderful in "King Arthur" and in a BBC series called "Second Sight." You can see Second Sight on Netflix. Hope many of you will check out "Dear Frankie" and "Second Sight." I think you'll fall in love with these gorgeous Brits, too!