In 1939 England, the Cuthbertsons - Helena (Felicity Kendal) and Richard (Paul Eddington), a war cripple - live in Cornwall with their orphaned niece, Sophy. Sophy is resented by Helena, and has little in common with Richard, and so is pleased when her four cousins arrive in August for a holiday. They talk excitedly about the possibility of war, and look forward to the 'Terror Run' - a night-time spree along a cliff path. Austrian refugees Max and Monika Erstweiler are invited to the traditional family dinner which takes place before the run, but the evening comes to an abrupt end when the news arrives that the outbreak of war is imminent.
Adapted from the novel by Mary Wesley, The Camomile Lawn
proved one of Channel Four's most successful dramas, telling an intricate story set during World War II and over two days in 1984. In this portrait of the Home Front in Cornwall and London in the Blitz, the titular lawn becomes a symbol for halcyon pre-war days, and also for a lost innocence on a personal level. For this is very much about growing up and sex, including rape and child abuse (both handled tactfully, mainly in dialogue), adulatory, ménage á trois
, bisexuality and rampant promiscuity. The attitudes, from the war-damaged, nihilistic Oliver, (a powerfully charismatic Toby Stephens) to the mercenary Calypso (an incendiary Jennifer Ehle), and some individual scenes, shock in their very matter-of-factness. What could be salacious soap is leavened by a comic touch, intensified by tragedy and elevated to intensely moving drama during its final half hour set around a funeral in 1984. Generally excellent production values make the best of the television budget, and there are outstanding performances by a large cast including Felicity Kendal and Paul Eddington (reunited from The Good Life
), Tara Fitzgerald in her first starring role, and especially Rebecca Hall as Sophy.
On the DVD: The four episodes are presented on two discs, with a total running time of approximately four hours 22 minutes. There are no special features of any sort. The picture is standard television 4:3, and while marginally better than VHS has a slight softness, with occasional after-images to shots with moving lights betraying that the series was made on video rather than film. Some scenes are rather grainy and there is the occasion brief instance of MPEG artifacting. The sound is stereo and appears to have been remixed from mono, some elements such as the music remaining in mono, while some sound effects are stereo. --Gary S Dalkin