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4.6 out of 5 stars136
4.6 out of 5 stars
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on 14 August 2013
I thoroughly enjoyed The Village. The acting was top notch, the period setting well researched and executed, storylines authentic, the production values slick. The idea, I believe, is to chart the history of an unnamed village through the whole of the twentieth century through the eyes of one of its inhabitants - an epic undertaking which, I hope, runs its course.

The first series is set during the period 1913 - 1920, the same time period as Downton Abbey. Be warned though, for those of you expecting another pretty, well made, soap opera love fest between the classes in a period setting, The Village is as far removed from that as possible. This series is about harsh reality and imperfect people. And boy, is it harsh.

The Village is unrelentingly grim and heart-wrenching. I challenge even the most hard-hearted to not tear up at least once. No one in this village seems to smile. Everyone lives under a cloud of misery and drudgery - physical, emotional or both, regardless of whether they are the lords of the manor, the middle class villagers or the dirt poor farmers.

And that, really, is the one criticism I have of this show. I am well aware that life in those times was very difficult and it was often a struggle to stay alive and have enough to eat, but surely people found some happiness some time. Surely they still smiled and laughed on occasion; had some joy in their lives, however small.

It is for this reason that I have given this show 4 instead of 5 stars. If the idea is to show life the way it really was at the start of the last century, then the makers should show all facets of life, not just the grimness and misery. Everyone has problems, but we manage to find something to be happy about.

My verdict - I would definitely recommend it, but would also recommend to the makers that the second series lightens up a bit.
0Comment94 of 96 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Don't get me wrong - I'm a huge fan of Downton. But not so blinded by its periodic dollops of saccharine dosed wish-fulfillment that I'm convinced this is what life must have been like for the average person in the early years of the Twentieth Century. For anyone who is, BBC's The Village will definitely provide the necessary antidote!

And it makes for suitably grim viewing as we witness the everyday domestic dramas of both high and low lived out against the backdrop of the Great War; the high personified by local gentry, the Allinghams, embodying all of the entitlement of the upper classes; the low personified by the Middletons, a (subsistence) farming family presided over by John (John Simm) and Grace (Maxine Peake) whose eldest son, Joe, goes off to fight.

The period detail, as might be expected from the BBC, is excellent, and the Peak District setting, at times, quite spectacular. Like all period dramas, it has its stock characters; its heroes and villains at which we are encouraged to either cheer or boo at appropriate moments in the story.

Nevertheless, this is a brilliant slice of fictionalized social history. It comes at an apposite time, commemorating, as we are, the centenary of the start of the `war to end all wars'- and all delivered by a top-notch cast.
0Comment13 of 13 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
Peter Moffatt has written a drama beginning in 1914 and ending in 1920 set in a single Peak District village without filming out of the location. The ambitious project aims to take the small community through the entire 20th century. Each episode starts with the present day recollections of 110 year old Bert Middleton. It then reverts to the story of the 11 year old Bert living on the Middleton Farm in 1914 with his long-suffering mother, Grace (Maxine Peake),father John (John Simm) and older brother Joe (Nico Mirallegro). The older Bert (David Ryall) is the link but he, as young Bert (Bill Jones), is also the story. The opening is of a failing farm and family hunger. Domestic violence follows with Bert bearing the brunt of his father's frustration and bitterness fuelled by alcohol. Prospects appear bleak and grim.

As the series develops, so do the lives and circumstances of the Middletons and the rest of the village change, particularly with the outbreak of World War One. Even the well-off in the local manor house are drawn into events. Joe enlists, John wanders out sucking beer slops off a brush while Bert amuses (and abuses) himself.

Enough said except the action continues with powerful scenes, impressive acting and dialogue. It is not without comical moments either nor emotional and dramatic incidents, some quite intense. Fortunes change one way or another largely war-related. All this is set against the scenic Derbyshire countryside. Series One may not be to everyones' taste, but what is? I found it absorbing and compelling viewing, eager for the next development. I hope the series continues.
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on 18 October 2013
It's clear that writer Peter Moffat knows what he's writing about in his depiction of working-class village life at the turn of the previous century. His Scottish grandfather and great-grandfather were shepherds ("Doctor Who" fans, he is unrelated to Steven Moffat). A relative of ours lived from 1883 to 1986; the changes witnessed in her rural life were remarkable. Moffat's wonderful narrator, Old Bert Middleton (David Ryall), begins this story as the 2nd oldest man in Britain (and by episode 3, the 1st oldest man has perished, leaving our Bert in the place of honour). Vivid writing, a fine cast, and superb cinematography create an utterly believable world.

The summer of 1914 was the first time ever a bus came to Bert's Derbyshire village, no one expected anyone to actually get off. Young Bert Middleton (exquisitely played by Bill Jones) was only 12 years old, but he fell in love immediately with new arrival, young Martha Lane (Charlie Murphy). He still loves her 100 years later. Bert's older brother Joe (perfectly portrayed by Manchester native Nico Mirallegro), is a servant in the Big House and he also falls for Martha. Both boys are afraid of their tormented father John, a drunken Peak District farmer (the always remarkable John Simm, catch the Manchester drama Life on Mars). For context, Simm himself researched what the life of his struggling-against-the elements farmer would have been, reading local history in Milk, Muck and Memories: Farming Lives Collected by Margaret Wombwell. Maxine Peake is mesmerizing in her powerful performance as the long-suffering boy's mother, Grace Middleton (see her in Moffat's Criminal Justice). Grace is a ballast for her family.

Old Bert is asked what his childhood was like. His answer: "Short." What made it short? Wryly, he says, "Being poor and being hungry." This first collection covers the period from 1914 to 1920, with the harrowing fallout from World War I, with tragic consequences to the Middleton family, the entire village, and Bert's gentle schoolteacher Mr. Eyre (Matt Stokoe), who protects him from a bullying colleague. Eyre gifts the teenaged Bert (Alfie Stewart) with a camera, and we are thus treated to "historic" photos of a lost time. A menacing character is Detective Stephen Bairstow, darkly played by Joe Armstrong (we noticed an uncanny resemblance to another great actor, Alun Armstrong, and later discovered why).

An enormous feature of "The Village" series is its topography. Cinematographer David Odd captures a landscape where nothing is straight. The stone walls are the bones of the land, green with lichen and moss, seemingly holding the land together under a vast cloud-driven sky. Absolutely beautiful.

Thankfully, there is a second series in the works for 2014; this will progress the series into the 1920s. There is speculation that future series may also be created, to cover World War II, and possibly post-war Britain. We look forward to more!

354 Minutes on 2 Disks, English subtitles provided.
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on 8 September 2014
Excellent series, depicting the wide divide between the upper and working classes at the beginning of the 20th century and as the series goes on the very slow narrowing of that divide. Great acting, John Simm and Maxine Peake are so convicing as John and Grace..
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on 16 December 2013
I didn't think they made tv like this anymore. After all the shallow, meaningless nonsense you find flicking through hundreds of channels, I really needed something like this. Something that reflected life as I found it (I come from a very dysfunctional family), the good, bad, ambiguous, weird, hilarious (yes there are funny bits too!) and everything inbetween.

This won't be popular I'm sure, it's not Downton Abbey (I like that show too for different reasons). It has some very difficult characters, but I found these the most interesting, particularly John Simms character John Middleton. His violence and frustration; the way he tries to explain to young Bert what the farm and the land mean and its connection to his family, not in any intellectual way, but in the only way he knows: physically, through the dip in the floor worn away by Middletons past. There is one scene where John shouts out into the wind 'we have nothing!', older Bert goes to him and says 'we have our name'. Maxine Peake as Grace Middleton is equally amazing, the rock of the family. When Joe (Berts older brother) announces his intentions to go to enlist, John isn't having it. Joe walks out, Grace runs after him and says 'I can't bear it if you're not free, what am I if I can't give this to you? I want you to go". I found all of this completely moving.

It touches on a lot of things: nationalism, duty, war, P.T.S.D (post traumatic stress disorder - shell shock), poverty, the class system, religion, morality, guilt, forgiveness, conscience, politics, socialism...and much more. Some of it is placed in its time, but a lot is as timeless as ever. This may be why I found it resonated with me so personally. The best thing I've seen this year. Thanks to everyone involved in making this remarkable drama!

btw
This reminds me of a famous German tv drama called Heimat. Its time spans from the Great War all the way to the 1990s after the Berlin Wall falls, told through a family in a small village with one constant character Herman. I'd recommend anyone who liked this to check it out.
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on 3 August 2015
Superb acting, gripping story line and heart wrenching images. This is an excellent series but incredibly tough. There are no cosy romantic notions of 'life in the old days'. The message is very clearly that it was cold and hard and you made the best you could with what you had. I cried like a baby a number of times. I thought it would be a longer time span, this series is only the few years of the First World War. I'm hooked. Hope there's more.
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on 13 October 2013
Very good series. No Downton Abbey glam' in it at all. The characters are desperate, tough, sad, violent. The situations are realistic and terrible. But it is GOOD.
The actors are fantastic.
I thoroughly recommend this series and look forward to series 2.
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on 30 November 2013
This movie gave me added insight into life in Britain in the time of WW1. As we will soon be celebrating the centenary of this time, this movie reminds us all of the futility of war and the terrible sacrifice made by the cream of the youth of so many countries.
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on 3 March 2014
Excellent characters and outstanding actors with an outstanding story to tell.
The only thing that I felt was a little out of place, and this so minor and I did notice it, were the actors' teeth, they looked
too good for that time and place.
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