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4.8 out of 5 stars
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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 22 April 2005
I watched the series last year and was very impressed with the production, especially the beautiful design and camerawork. And, yes, with Richard Armitage too. (I'm only human.)

So I was looking forward to receiving the dvd- I had plans to maybe ration out my viewing; watch half an episode here and there. But, of course, that all went out the window when my dvd arrived. I got home late last night and decided I'd just have a peek at the first episode before I went to bed. So, at 1am, I snuggled up with my electric blanket, a mug of tea and a large box of maltesers, and then promptly fell back in love with this wonderful adaptation. I watched all 4 episodes again. Then I watched the special features- the deleted scenes (nothing that scintillating, but there is a slightly extended proposal scene, and a few others from the first episode); the interview with Richard Armitage (charming fellow... I'd say more, but I think you're all familiar with the Armitage appeal *loosens collar*), and then I read through the extra production notes and even watched a bit of the commentary episodes (1 and 4).

So I ended up getting to sleep at 6am. But it was worth it. This dvd transfer looks wonderful, and fortunately, unlike many money-spinners, it hasn't been assembled hastily or sloppily. There are optional subtitles, the sound and picture quality are first rate, and the extras really are worth taking a look at. And, of course, you get all four episodes of a 5 star production to treasure time and again.

As for the production itself- it's a gem. The real strengths lie in the excellent camerawork and attention to historical detail in costume and set design. The direction has a light touch, and the screenplay is, for the most part, subtle and well-paced. The specially composed music from Martin Phipps is hair-raisingly lovely. As for the performances- the supporting cast is watertight, first rate acting all round. Sinead Cusack is utterly convincing as Mrs. Thornton. I have to be honest, though- when I watched the series last year, I felt that if there was a weak link at all then it was Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale. To be fair, I think this weakness is only apparent because of the excellence of the rest of the cast, but I did find her performance a little self-conscious and heavy-handed in parts. I found myself thinking about her acting rather than being submerged in her story when I first watched the series, something that I didn't do with the rest of the cast. Then again, it didn't stop me from enjoying the series second time round, so maybe she's growing on me.

As for Richard Armitage as John Thornton... well, what can I say? I think I'm running out of superlatives. I remember watching the first episode and being completely seduced by the striking image of the ethereal whiteness of the mill interior and Thornton's dark angel character striding, in black, across the screen. But after the violent confrontation with the mill hand, I really did actively dislike Thornton's character. So I think that part of the power of the series was that, as a viewer, you made the same journey with Margaret of discovering what made Thornton tick, the influences that had shaped him, and the innate decency underneath his sharp exterior. We shared in that seduction. Armitage gives a very complex, sensitive performance which really did move me in certain scenes, and I'm not at all the easily moved type. To put it simply- he was completely convincing.

So, if you're contemplating treating yourself to this dvd, then please don't hesitate. I have a feeling that this will stand as one of the BBC's period classics. It's certainly a magical way to spend a few hours. So, go on, treat yourself.
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on 27 August 2006
Like some of the reviewers on Amazon, I didn't see the film on TV because French TV seldom broadcast British films like Pride and Prejudice and North&South. But luckily for me, I have a strong liking for everything that is English (cinema, literature, theatre and music) and I am always deeply interested in what British TV can produce. I've seen the BBC Pride and Prejudice many times (I've also read the book) I like it -even though my preference goes to the new 2005 movie (sorry, can't help it)- and I am even familiar with Elizabeth Gaskell's work (I've read Mary Barton and I've started reading North&South). So, on reading the positive reviews on Amazon and on the BBC website, I decided to buy it, although I knew little about the whole story. My God, I never imagined that this BBC film could be so good! I can't even describe how I felt when I first watched the first episode except that I became completely hooked and I couldn't stop watching until I knew how it ended. And what an end!!! Wow! Now I can only say that it has even eclipsed the BBC P&P film in my heart. It is more romantic anyway! Everything is perfect, the cast, the setting, the photography (the image of cotton flakes in the mill), the dialogues, the music, the social background. The background definitely adds another interesting layer to the film because you can see both sides, the mill owners' and the workers' and you can see them working. All the characters are marvellous and so likeable. They really make a difference for me because they are down-to-earth, they have depth and there is always a certain dignity about them.
We can thank Elizabeth Gaskell for creating such wonderful characters, yet they wouldn't make such an impression in the film if the actors weren't so great. They really got into their parts. Sinead Cusack is a magnificent Mrs Thornton, you may have the impression that this iron lady always controls her emotions but you just look through her and realize that she is not as cold or hard as she seems, especially when you take full measure of the depth of her love for her son. What a great mother she is! And what about Brandon Coyle/ Higgins, I mean, I've just talked about the dignity of the characters, here is a fine example, you just have to look at the face of this union leader to know that he is at heart a good man, even though he is a bit ruthless sometimes. Even jobless or heartbroken, he remains dignified and calls for respect. Jo Joyner as Thornton's sister is a delight, probably the only source of comic relief in the story.
And of course, the film wouldn't be so brilliant if there wasn't Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage in the parts of Margaret and Mr Thornton. Daniela portrays both the vulnerability and the strength of the heroine very well. As for Thornton, oh, God, What a man! I fell in love with this fascinating character. Of course, Richard Armitage is already so charismatic that you can't take your eyes off him. But the actor is especially fantastic because he makes the character so alive on screen. He is Thornton! I can't believe I am saying that but `forget Darcy, Thornton is so much better'. I mean the man is so dedicated to his work, -and contrary to Darcy, he has known poverty and he has had to fight back-that I can't help being impressed. Out of nothing but using his wits, he has been able to run a fine business and when we first meet him, he is a well-off and powerful mill owner. His position in society makes him arrogant and brutal, yet, he remains fair with his workers and, thanks to Margaret, becomes more aware of the living conditions of the working class. So here you have strength, intelligence and integrity in one man; and, at the same time, his love for Margaret makes him completely vulnerable. Oh, the way he looks at her! (sigh) It is incredible what the two actors can produce on screen. In the proposal scene, the interaction between them is really intense. There is so much passion on their faces and in the way they respond to each other that it is breathtaking. I was really shaking inside. (I always feel a bit frustrated by the BBC P&P, although the actors are excellent, because the film sticks too much to the book. And I wish that we could see more touching of hands or more signs of passion between Firth and Ehle. Thankfully, here, the film, North &South, is not completely faithful to the book especially concerning the dialogues and so they have more impact in the film. The ending scene, in particular is so beautiful that it always brings tears to my eyes. Is it due to R. Armitage's magnetism on screen or to the tenderness that is palpable between them when they talk or when they look at each other or to the way they touch each other's hands with the sweet music behind? I can't tell. All I can tell is that Mr Thornton and Margaret Hale have become as dear to me as Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet! Enjoy! This is a jewel!
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on 10 November 2006
I cannot praise this adaptation of Gaskell's finest work enough. I am truly thankful because I would not have been introduced to this magnificent tale if not for my English literature syllabus! Whether you read the book or watch this fantastic production, this is one tale you cannot afford to miss. It is one of social divide and of true and great characters that transcend class. It is a social commentary of today's time as much as it was of the industrial age. Having read the book, with rapid pace, I ordered this in quick succession. I was certainly not disappointed. Though I had only intended to watch one episode, I (and my mother included!) were hooked and could not be satisfied until we had seen the conclusion of this beautifully worked drama. With captivating performances from all involved, believable character interactions, a moving story, stunning locations, and hauntingly beautiful music, this is THE drama to watch. I cannot believe I missed it when it first aired on the BBC. Truly I can safely say that it is better than the acclaimed Pride and Prejudice and is now officially my favourite book and drama of all time. If this immersing tale is enough to encapsulate a teenager, it will do the same to anyone! I cannot emphasise my recommendation further. Buy it, watch it and love it!
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on 25 May 2007
This is my first review but I think that this mini is the best I have ever seen. I bought the DVD last November, 6 months ago and I'm still addicted about this amazing piece of art. I'm so intoxicated of it that I need to express my feelings also here. So be careful if you have the intention to buy it, you know, your life is destined to change ( in a good way, of course ). N&S has some mysterious powers that invade your heart and soul, this is my impression. The characters are very down to earth, they suffer, they make mistakes, but at last, they find each other and love prevails.
Mr Thornton is a man of action, power and great straight. A man who fell, rised himself and goes on. Richard Armitage is the only possible Mr Thornton in the Universe. I read the book ( I highly recommended it too) and I can say that I imagined Elizabeth Gaskell's hero exactly like he interpreted him. He not only plays a part....he speaks to us with his words, body, eyes and you can feel his pain ( the scene with his mother after the proposal is terrific ), his joy (scene at the train station with "you're coming back with me" makes you jump and scream "yes yes yes she loves you and now she is yours"). I watched many period dramas but this one is really magnificent. If you want something of special for you, your research is just finished. Buy it, watch it, re-watch it every time you feel is the moment.
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on 31 August 2007
I had read "North and South" years ago and found it OK but not as good as my all-time-favorite "Pride and Prejudice". I just loved the BBC adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice" with Colin Firth, watching it over and over again, reading the novel again and thinking about it in my mind for days. I'd never thought another film would make me feel the same way, but I was wrong.

I had no such expectations from the adaptation of "North and South". I got it sort of on impulse because I was in the mood for a BBC period drama, but after I received the DVD, it sat there for 10 days before I sort of reluctantly put it on. But then I was hooked, I sat up all night watching it.

I have to admit that Daniela Denby-Ashe was a disappointment at first and got on my nerves during my first viewing, but she grew on me just as J.Parker wrote in his review. Richard Armitage... What can I say? You have to see him in this role. The way he looks, talks, broods.. He's so good. The relationship between mother and son was memorable, though not in the book in this way.

About the last scene at the train station: While watching it, I was fully aware that this couldn't have happened in those days, but I liked it anyway, especially when Margaret gets up to go suddenly when the London train is called and Mr. Thornton turns his back hurt and disappointed. This film's a roller-coaster of emotions.

So, now I've seen the film three times, read the book again, and can't stop thinking about it.
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on 1 May 2012
I had been given this box set for Christmas but hadn't had the chance to watch it until a few days ago. I'm not a massive fan of love stories so I put this on with a degree of trepidation, expecting it to be four hours of "I love you" and soppy glances. While there is a romantic undertone to this, it's actually done in a very subtle way which makes this all the more watchable.

Enough people have given an indication of the plot so I don't want to go over old ground in that regard. North & South is a very interesting social commentary as well as a love story. It very subtly illustrates the hypocracy of the workers who feel demeaned and shunned by the 'masters', whereas they treat one of their own in a very similar fashion. They complain about the social heirarchy that exists when they are oblivious that they themselves have their own social heirarchy and have ways of dealing with those who don't adhere to the expected behaviour.

Margaret Hale is deemed to be haughty, rude, snobbish and patronising towards the northeners, when the northerners demonstrate those same features to her. Margaret may not fit in with the social convention of an industrial town, but she can shift between a natural friendship with the workers and a marginally tolerant, if nothing else initially, relationship with Thornton and his mother.

There are no clear good or bad characters in this production, contrary to how they first appear and it's refreshing to see that almost every character has their good and bad side, Margaret also shows she's not entirely clean cut mid way thourgh the series, albeit with good intentions. It's also interesting to see how the concept of the strike was dealt with. Much of this plot centres on the character of John Thornton.

While Thornton appears initially to be a brutal, uncaring man we are gradually shown that this is not the case. His character makes no apologies for the tough way he runs his mill however the character is given the opportunity to say "yes, I beat a man in front of you for what you think is a small matter, but here is the reality...". Thornton's character in many ways is the least selfish in this show. He's certainly the most compassionate (if that's a word you could apply to him, he's a complex character) of the masters and his actions, while harsh, serve to protect his workers from unemployment and to look after his family (his mother in particular).

The acting is brilliant and I can't say there was a weak link in any of them. While this has given Richard Armitage more than a big stepping stone in his career (easy to see why the females of UK give a collective swoon when he appears on screen in anything now!) much less has been seen from the other characters. I think it's perhaps because Armitage does steal every scene he's in but that's not to say his co-actors don't step up to the mark. Daniela Denby-Ashe is nicely cast as Margaret Hale. I'm not sure how Ms. Denby-Ashe managed to keep a stern "I really don't like you" look at Armitage's character when he's staring at her or trying to befriend her; it's certainly not a look I could maintain for long! She's a likable lead however and pulls Margaret Hale off with seeming ease.

I feel a special mention should be given to Jo Joyner as the (very unexpected) comedy foil in this production. Yes, a BBC period drama doing comedy. Joyner plays John's sister Fanny. She's not the most tactful woman on the planet, but it still extremely likeable. Her facial expressions, comments, litte subtle gestures made me smile every time she was on screen. Without some of the physical acting, I'm not sure Fanny would have been such a funny character but I'm glad they decided to give her some depth. All too often period dramas can be overly stiff and formal. Joyner's character gave a nice refreshing edge to this brilliant drama.

Finally, a must mention is the setting. While it's fairly obvious that this was filmed primarily in Edinburgh (and how I love my city, so to see it used for this production was wonderful) the recreation of the mills were also beautifully done. To see Thornton walking through the mill, with the fluff everywhere and his workers all silently operating the machinery while the children collect the fluff of the floors, was striking. I had visited New Lanark Mill town several years ago and to see on TV what the mill must have looked like is something else (well worth a visit if you're now interested in this industry/era!).

Please give this a go. Gentlemen, even if you're not into 'lovey-dovey' stuff this is still a must watch. My husband has no interest in romances and is only very slightly tolerant of my Richard Armitage crush, but he's watched this and found it fantastic. I think he liked the notion of the struggle to provide for a family both in the worker environment and the masters' environment. He's also interested in trade union and how collctive labour power can draw industry to a halt so please don't disregard this as just a love story. That's a part of it, but it's very subtly done.
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on 17 April 2007
I really have to be thankful to Amazon in particular and to all of you, reviewers in general, because I would have missed this unforgettable BBC series but for you. I hadn't known of this series at all because it wasn't showed in Spanish television. (Shame on us). So, the first time I heard of it was in these pages... Thank you!

I am not going to repeat any of the very well merited praises all of you have written about this series, I couldn't agree more with all of you. The series is perfect in my opinion. Even after reading the book you cannot find fault with it. The atmosphere, the characters (all of them), the rhythm. All beautifully done.

Maybe trying hard to find something to complain about, I could think that it was unnecessary to change the way in which Margaret and John meet for the first time. In the book it was not necessary to make John so disagreeable to make Margaret dislike him. This book speaks among other things, about prejudices, hers and his. In this period for a woman like Margaret risen up as the daughter of a gentleman, Thornton was very much behind her, it was not a question of money, but of social status and education.

A manufacturer was a little better than a tradesman, somebody who buys and sells things to get some profit couldn't be a gentleman at all. Maybe in the series they thought that we would dislike Margaret if they didn't give us a more "modern" reason for her dislike to Thornton. I don't think it has to be like that at all. The stronger are your prejudices, the higher you have to rise to overcome them, the more you have to change and the better you have to love. In the book you find this perfectly logic.

But anyway, the above mild critic is only my personal opinion and always comparing the film with the book, which is almost always unfair to any film. The language of films and books are so different that I only resent the changes when they don't respect the spirit of the book and this is not the case at all. For example, the climax in the film, the famous scene of the railway station which is completely different in the book, I find it perfect, as perfect as I found it in the book. Each of them perfect in their own way.

The performances of all actors I find remarkable, of course with special mention to the two main characters beautifully portrayed. It is impossible not to fall in love with Armitage's Mr Thornton with his outstanding performance. He really creates a real alive character impossible to forget.

The only thing I regret is that de DVD I bought here it has not subtitles in Spanish and so, I couldn't share my enthusiasm with any of my friends who can't speak English, which has been for me a real shame, so eager I was to comment this series. So, I had to share it with you. Thank you!
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on 5 February 2007
This adaption is remarkable..sooo beautiful, moving and completely addictive to watch. It is visual lovely, the characters are strong and easily admired, which has much to do with the brilliant acting...in particular Richard Armitage. John Thorton was made for him! His character is better than Pride and Prejudice's Mr Darcy and far more sexier! This is all helped with a fantastic storyline, which is both thoughtful and grounded in the period in which it was set.

I can't recommend this adaption more than I have. Beautiful, moving, down to earth, and unforgetable. Forget Pride and Prejudice, it has nothing on North and South...I urge everyone to watch it, even if you arent a fan of period dramas..prepare to adore and treasure this drama!
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on 17 June 2006
I ordered the DVD sight unseen, based on online reviews (something I've never done, by the way), and I cannot find the words to do justice to it. Wow.

I read the book a couple of months beforehand and liked it a lot, esp. b/c of the social issues and how the internal lives of the characters (esp. Margaret & Thornton) are developed by Gaskell. Yet somehow, while watching the miniseries tonight I felt that it was, in some ways, an improvement over the book (sacrilegious though this might sound to fans of the book). This could be because it shows in a few scenes, with great economy, what Gaskell takes pages to tell, about the stresses and strains of the Industrial Revolution, class conflict and poverty, and also about the characters' feelings and motivations. It could also be because several of the characters are strengthened in Sandy Welch's script (e.g., Higgins and Bessy being the most notable examples). The early shots of the cotton mill were striking and Welch's line "I've seen hell and it's snow white" were highlights for me.

Although I somewhat disagreed with some choices made - such as the circumstances under which the two leads first meet - I still felt that these changes fit in with the overall tone and flow of the adaptation, allowing me to understand or overlook them.

The music was deeply moving and appropriate, imo, and significantly added to the emotional impact of the story. The camera work was very much to my liking; not static unlike many period dramas. As for the acting, I found both Daniela Denby-Ashe AND Richard Armitage convincing; though some think that RA does steal the show, DDA has a very difficult job playing a resilient, reserved character who internalises so many of her struggles. It's worth mentioning that even in the book, Margaret's (DDA's) emotions always have to be kept under wraps, (though I can still sense the tension simmering under the surface); Thornton's angst is more visible somehow, especially in the book, so RA has more material to work with than, say Colin Firth in Pride and Prejudice, and he does a wonderful job with it.

Let me quickly add that any comparisons between John Thornton and Darcy are odious and unfair to both, b/c in the respective books, John's perspective was far better developed than Darcy's. I adore both, though Darcy was my first literary love and so just about sneaks ahead. Thornton is among my top 2-3 favorite literary heroes, though.

And despite my liking for the humorous ending from the book (abrupt though it is), its counterpart in the miniseries, which was, shall we say, more fully developed, was simply sublime.

Someone once said that great film can be made from a very good book, but very rarely (if ever) is great film/TV the product of a great book. Perhaps this is why I will never be completely satisfied with an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice; not to denigrate any of the Pride and Prejudice adaptations, I will always ultimately return to the source for that satisfaction. As far as the book and miniseries versions of North and South are concerned, much as I liked the book, I just might feel differently :-)
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on 4 May 2007
Possibly one of the best period-dramas I've ever watched. Though I loved the ITV Austen Season it was definitely more affective to film North and South as a mini-series rather than try to fit all in 2 hours as ITV did with the Austen interpretations.

The acting was superb, I can't fault any of them, they had shivers crawling down my spine throughout, I honestly felt that the acting was that powerful. The lead roles, of Margaret and John are played by Daniela Denby-Ashe and Richard Armitage. Both gave the roles such life it was unbelievable.

The costumes were perfect as was the set.

I think the story itself in unforgettable, a favourite Gaskell. Its Pride and Prejudice but with a different edge and I think a lot more heartbreak. I'm not knocking Pride and Prejudice, it is one of my favourite novels but I think this novel describes the darker side of life and doesn't just revolve around the gentility. At the end of the day, trade was vulgar; the wives and daughters of tradesmen were not welcome at court whereas the wives and daughters of vicars were. Therefore it goes without saying that actually, despite their genteel poverty, Margaret Hale was socially superior to John Milton despite his mother's grumbles. In fact this was how it was described, "The wives and daughters of the clergy, of military and naval officers, of physicians and barristers can be presented. These are the aristocratic professions, but the wives and daughters of general practitioners and of solicitors are not entitled to a presentation. The wives and daughters of merchants, or of men in business (excepting bankers), are not entitled to presentation."

I really love the way that both are able to overcome pride and society to finally realise their love. Both stubborn and proud, fiery temperaments makes for an explosive and turbulent relationship throughout the novel. This is really portrayed in the BBC adaptation.

Really beautifully made, loved it!
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