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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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The cast of characters appears normal, at least for their time. There is Matty, whose elder sister Deborah is the arbiter of "the proper" in town. They look out the windows, judging people they see in the street and discussing what course of action would be best. They take in a niece, who becomes an intimate part of their household because she wishes to aviod a hasty (or perhaps any) marriage. A young doctor also comes to town, brimming with ideals and ready to work. Finally, the gameskeeper for a local aristocrat takes on the welfare of a wonderful child, whose family is part gypsy and dirt poor. As these characters interact and adapt to the changing world, more and more is revealed, to the point that their cares and hopes become beautifully, painfully poignant.
For example, as the young doctor establishes himself as innovative and competent, he is noticed as the most eligible bachelor in a town of gossipy spinsters. Though he is in love with a local beauty, two older women become convinced he is about to propose to them, in part because of his own kindness but also by a bad practical joke. When the situation is discovered, he is nearly ruined by the many assumptions people make about his motives. Another episode involves the sad resolution of an old love: the beau reappears, after perhaps 40 years, to the woman who refused him because her family needed her due to a personal tragedy. They loved each other the whole time. It brought tears to my eyes.
The overwhelming impression, at the end, is one of grace. You come to admire these people, hope for them, and even question your own behavior. Indeed, according to my wife, a principal purpose of the novels is to pose social dilemmas to the reader. Very powerful stuff. Also, unlike the all's-well-that-ends-well stuff that makes many Dickens' endings so sickeningly unbelievable, these novels often end in pain and loss, though the decent society of the town makes up for a lot of it. There are no deus ex machina solutions.
Warmly recommended. This will become a staple in our family's entertainment.
Unfortunately I have to say that the navigation menus on the blu-ray discs are the worst I have come across. Each menu screen has a voiceover informing what menu you are on and what the options are (even though they are clearly on screen in big bold type). Most annoyingly when selecting an option within the menu you are also told what option you are on. This is surely disc navigation for dummies. While this information is being spoken there is no way to navigate through the menus which makes menu selection slow and irritating.
Surely the disc authors could have provided a quick navigation option!
The acting is first class and the attention to detail regarding costume and sets is faultless.As I haven't read any of Elizabeth Gaskell's books, I don't know to what extent the storylines have been altered; Cranford is basically three books condensed into the one series.Having watched it though, I'm tempted to now read her work. Although the series is set between 1823-24, it's surprising how relevant it is in 2009.The main theme is one of change and the way in which we deal with it and with life in general. They complain about the price of tallow candles and we complain about energy prices! If you have enjoyed any of the other period dramas that the BBC have done in the past, then you will no doubt enjoy this one also.