Tuesday, April 14, 2009

North and South (2004)

One of my favorite movie genres is period movies, I've always loved them, except for Tess the d'Urberville because it is too tragic and dark for my taste. It ad been a while since I had watched one so today I decided to see the BBC four-part miniseries North and South based on the 1855 novel of the same name by Elizabeth Gaskell. The movie begins when Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) and her family move from a country town to the industrial town of Milton. In it she encounters a society where people either live richly or starve to death, the poor work at the cotton mills under horrible conditions and the masters live a privileged life of comfort. Margaret is appalled by the mistreatment of the poor and soon befriends some of them even though they are from different social classes. She also befriends the mill owner John Thornton (Richard Armitage) even though she disagrees with the way she treats his workers. This friendship has romantic tones but we are never sure what is going to happen between Margaret and Mr. Thornton throughout the movie.

Full of social commentaries about the social differences and the mistreatment of the poor, it is a very well done adaptation of the book, with an excellent cast of actors that sucks you into the drama not wanting to miss a second. I had planned to only watch the first episode today, but soon found myself addicted to it and ended up watching the whole series. The portrayal of the characters was my favorite thing about the movie, they were human, not good or bad people in it, no black and-white situations but lots of gray areas that really made me like the movie. Still there's contrasts throughout the movie, not the typical good versus evil but the poor contrasted with the rich especially through the wardrobe and homes they live in, the north as the dark city life against the south as the sunny country life, and the workers compared with the masters. Still, the contrast is not judgmental, the cons and pros of each side are allowed to shine through.

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