This international award winning film adaptation of Catherine Cookson's best selling book of the same name should delight Ms. Cookson's devoted fans and anyone else who enjoys period pieces in which class conflicts are the central theme.
Set in England in the 1840s, a desperate widow with three children, two boys and a girl, takes the post of housekeeper to a crusty member of the gentry who lives in solitary shabby splendor in a home that has seen better days. Living in genteel poverty, he is intrigued by the fact that his housekeeper and her children are literate. Moved by this family who has infused some interest into his formerly desiccated life, he decides to dedicate some personal effort to educating the children.
Unfortunately, he has a dark side that causes a rift in the family he seems to have adopted as his own. Alienated from the oldest son who has little interest in learning, he continues to teach the other two children. The daughter, in particular, thirsts for knowledge and she takes to his tutoring as a duck takes to water. Consequently, she develops a deep affection for him, which he reciprocates. When he dies, she is a well-educated young woman with an appreciation for books.
After his death, however, her mother, angered by the terms of her late employer's will, forces her daughter to go into service as a laundress in a wealthy household in order to earn an income. There, the daughter's intelligence, literacy, and education causes endless trouble, both upstairs and downstairs, and class conflicts begin to raise their ugly head. When certain events transpire in the household that cause her to escape her drudgery, her life takes an unexpected turn, and the world soon becomes her oyster.
This is a handsome production with wonderful performances by the entire cast. It is sure to delight those who enjoy period pieces, as well as those who enjoy the novels of the late Catherine Cookson.