I have found myself watching this film over and over again, rather to my own surprise. Yes, there are weaknesses. Could a farmer in 1914 (rather than 1814)really tyrannise his tennants and folk as Charlie's father does? A purist also can pick out errors in the trench scenes, such as Germans wearing spiked helmets in 1917. Nevertheless, the story is an absorbing one. Charlie McFell, the son of a gentleman farmer, is nice but weak, always being ordered about by his own father, and then by women and neighbours. Finally, he comes to the end of his own Cinder Path, and learns to stand up for himself. I found the pictures of two Northumbrian farms very absorbing, and perfect in detail - the harder home farm, with its trout rods and stag trophies, and the more gentlemanly one next door, posher but needing money. The birthday party, with piano music and dancing in the hall, has a perfect period feeling to it. Interestingly, the War is treated ambiguously. Charlie suffers, but he learns to be a man. Catherine Zeta Jones is perfect as the sultry Victoria, while the younger sister is winningly naive.
A farm owner Edward MacFell is a violent and brutal person, He makes some of his employees crawl with bare knees feet and hands along a cinder path. His son Charlie has yet to experience the joys of coitus, his father arranges for him to be taken down by one of the farm girls, whose brother is up-in-arms about this and decides to teach dad a lesson. It goes wrong and Edward MacFell is deceased. two other people also witness this tragedy. The son, Charlie, and an employee Ginger Slater, who uses blackmail to improve his lot. Charlie is forced to marry the adulterous Victoria Chapman, even though he is in love with Nellie her sister. Along comes the war, he meets up with Ginger, here the roles are reversed, Ginger is a sergeant and Charlie a mere private. Revenge is sweet so they say. What will be the outcome of this early twentieth century story? For my money, Maria Miles as Nellie steals the show.