Cranford [DVD] 
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This is the DVD of the lavish BBC costume drama, Cranford, based on three of Elizabeth Gaskell's novels including Cranford itself.
The cast boasts some of Britain's best-loved and most experienced actresses, including Dame Judi Dench, Dame Eileen Atkins, Imelda Staunton and Francesca Annis.
The five-part drama series tells the witty and poignant story of the small absurdities and major tragedies in the lives of the people of Cranford, as they are besieged by forces that they can't withstand.
Cranford in the 1840s is a small northern English town on the cusp of change. Things are on the move. The railway is pushing its way relentlessly towards the town from Manchester, bringing fears of migrant workers and the breakdown of law and order.
The arrival of handsome new doctor, Frank Harrison (Simon Woods) from London causes a stir; not only because of his revolutionary medical methods, but also because of the effect he has on many of the ladies' hearts in the town.
Judi Dench plays Miss Matty Jenkyns, whose hopes and rebellious spirit are crushed when she was forced as a young woman to give up Mr Holbrook (Michael Gambon), the man she loved.
Philip Glenister, Lesley Manville, Julia McKenzie, Julia Sawalha and Greg Wise also star alongside Judi Dench and the above-mentioned actors. Created by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin for BBC One and written by Heidi Thomas (I Capture The Castle, Madam Bovary, Lilies).
Based on a trio of novels by Elizabeth Gaskell, Cranford is the latest in a long line of sumptuous costume dramas from the BBC. And its a fine addition to the BBCs heritage too, pulling together a stellar cast for an involving, highly enjoyable series thats well worth picking up on DVD.
The key asset Cranford has in its corner is that aforementioned cast. Its lead by the marvellous Dame Judi Dench, and shes in fine company alongside Dame Eileen Atkins, Francesca Annis, Michael Gambon, Julia Sawalha and Imelda Staunton. Theyre just some of the residents of Cranford in the 1840s, a town in the north of England on the verge of potentially dramatic changes.
In the midst of the general feeling of unrest comes a new Doctor, Frank Harrison (played by Simon Woods). His presence further unsettles matters, thanks to his appeal to the towns female contingent, and also his differing methods. From here, Cranford goes on to deliver an engrossing cocktail of humour, emotion and raw drama thats quite brilliantly put together.
Cranford is, ultimately, the kind of lavish production that weve come to know and admire from the BBC. Its a very good drama, spread across five episodes, that simply leaves you thirsting for the next time the corporation unlocks the costume cupboard. That time cant come soon enough. --Jon FosterSee all Product description
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We would agree with everything M Edwards said in his review: wonderful acting (Julia McKenzie nearly had me sobbing in the last episode), interesting insights into life in the early 1840's, a real cross-section of society into whose lives you gazed (servants were not just 'seen but not heard' as in so many period dramas but allowed lives of their own), real comic moments, an excellent balance of the sad/tragic v happy/comic - all of which helped you to see the characters as real people you could meet today as opposed to fictitious individuals frozen in time.
We loved the way 'retail therapy' was as alive and well in 1843 as it is today, how the worries about the coming of the railway echoes our concerns about how use of the Internet and/or immigration will change our society ... you could really identify with the characters' reaction to the events of their day (which, thankfully, were to the foreground in this production and not just a background rumble as they so often are). And boy did this production make you give thanks for pain killers of all descriptions! And for electric light, running water, contact lenses, antiseptics ...
Cranford reminds us that people are much the same down the ages - we just worry about different things. We may not celebrate May Day as the Cranfordites did - and may therefore not come together as communities as they did - but most of us still feel for neighbours when they suffer grief or misfortune ... and smile when we see a wedding or hear that a baby is expected. We want life to go on. We know that it won't go on unchanged but we also know, like the villagers of Cranford knew, that it will be all the easier to accept the change if we pull together.
The cast are brilliant - Dame Judi Dench is, as always, marvellous. But the supporting cast are also bery good at bringing this rather strange little town to life. As you watch their lives unfolding, you cannot help but empathise when their lives are threatened by the proposal of a new railway. Whilst some see it as progress, others are dubious as to how it shall affect their life and tranquility. As any good period dramas must, this works in showing that, although our modern day concerns may be very different, when you come down to it all it shows that no matter what age you live in, there shall inevitably be something to threaten life as you know it.
CRANFORD is a charming drama. I would recommend it to anyone.
All of this and a lovely surprise at the end.