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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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To be honest I have never read anything by William Boyd before and when this was first advertised as coming on our screens I wondered what it was going to be like. After the first episode I went out and bought the bookAny Human Heart which I haven't touched as I didn't want to know what I would be seeing on the tv, now it is finished I can relax with the book at any time.

The story centres around Logan Mountstuart, who is a novelist and some time journalist. Ranging from about 1906-1991 we are given an entry into Mountstuart's life. His affairs, his friends all appear as we are shown occasions throughout his long life. Flashing between his old age and his younger self we get the feeling of Mountstuart looking back on his life, with regrets but also with happiness. With his old age, and like your average old person his health isn't the best it could be, we are also shown a very poignant sight. My gran recently died and she was the oldest of all her brothers and sisters, only leaving the very youngest one now alive, and this shows in a way what that is like. As relatives and friends die before you you kind of get a feeling of loneliness, and thoughts of will I be next.

All in all this was brilliant, from the script to the acting, and like all lives this doesn't show all doom and gloom, but those happy moments, those times when you wished you had done more and those times that are humourous, though sometimes this humour is quite black.
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on 16 December 2010
I have just finished watching the last episode of Any Human Heart. Like the previous reviewer, I am ordering the book, and can't wait to read it - if William Boyd's screenplay is anything to go by, the book will be astonishing.

This drama, although slow-moving, is utterly captivating. The themes of loss and regret are expertly, effortlessly woven throughout it, and the acting subtle, but moving. Jim Broadbent steals the show; in the first three episodes he hasn't even got a line but still manages to deliver a heartfelt, seamless performance. I will devour the book greedily, and when the DVD arrives I will savour it a second time.
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on 13 December 2010
I agree completely with M Dowden, I to wanted the book & ordered it from Amazon, hoping it'll be delivered soon.

I noticed in the Radio Times that this production hasn't been too well received by the viewing public,which is so sad...for a change we got a story slowly told so that we could get to know the characters involved, lots of dialogue & minimal 'Action Sequences', call me old fashioned...I am,but it was wonderful for once to watch a programme which rates with 'Brideshead', 'The Forsyte Saga' etc. It's a classic.
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“Any Human Heart” is a miniseries that was aired on British television (Channel 4) and released on DVD in 2010. There are four episodes. Each episode runs for ca. 71 minutes. Thus the total running time is ca. 284 minutes.

The series is based on a book from 2002. The book is written by William Boyd, who is also responsible for the screenplay. The leading character in the book and the film is a fictional person: Logan Mountstuart, an author and a reporter, who lives his fictional life from 1906 to 1991. As we follow his life and career in the four episodes, we are taken on a journey through the 20th century.

While Logan is a fictional character, his life and career are placed in a historical setting. The role of Logan is played by four different actors: a boy, a young man, a mature man, and an old man,

As he goes through life, he meets several famous people. One example: he meets Ernest Hemingway before and during the Spanish civil war. Another example: he meets Ian Fleming, who worked for British intelligence during World War II. A third example: he meets Edward, who was for a while king of the UK, and his special friend Wallis Simpson. When Edward abdicated and married his friend, the couple became known as the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor.

I do not wish to spoil the viewing for anyone; therefore I am not going to reveal any significant details here, but I have to mention an episode that took place in 1943, because it is a true story that is woven into the fictional drama.

During World II, the Duke of Windsor served as governor of the Bahamas. Ian Fleming sends Logan to the Bahamas where his job is to keep an eye on the famous couple and make sure they do not cause any problems for the British Empire.

In July 1943, Harry Oakes, the richest man on the island, was murdered in his home. As governor, the Duke was in charge of the investigation, but he had no experience, so he asked two detectives from Miami to take charge of the case. They soon found a young man who might be guilty, but they had no proof. They asked Logan to help them frame him by planting some evidence. When Logan refused to co-operate, the Duke and the Duchess were furious and Logan was immediately expelled from the Bahamas. The young man was charged, but acquitted. To this day, the case remains open; the murder has never been solved, although many people claim they know who was responsible for the deed.

Boyd is fascinated with the case. That is why he decided to include it in the book and the film. He sent Logan to the Bahamas in 1943 so he was there when the murder took place. Boyd wrote an article about the case that was published in the Guardian on 13 November 2010: “The real-life murder case behind Any Human Heart.” The case has been covered in several books, for instance:

** Who Killed Sir Harry Oakes? by James Leasor (1983, 2008)

** Mrs. Simpson: Secret Lives of the Duchess of Windsor by Charles Higham (1988, 2005).

** Murder in the Tropics by Stuart B. McIver (1995, 2008); chapter 4: "Framed by a King"

** Blood and Fire: The Duke of Windsor and the strange murder of Sir Harry Oakes by John Marquis (2006)

Sometimes Logan has a girlfriend, sometimes he is single. Sometimes he is married, sometimes he is not. Sometimes he is happy, sometimes he is sad. As his father explains: it is all a question of luck. We get some bad and some good luck. We cannot do anything about it. The question is how we deal with it. I am not going to reveal further details about this aspect of Logan’s life.

What about the title of the book and the film? Any human heart. What is the meaning? These three words are the end of a quote by Henry James (1843-1916). The quote runs like this: “Never say you know the last word about any human heart.” Logan quotes the statement in episode 4 during a consultation with his doctor, explaining that it is a quote from an old literary friend.

“Any Human Heart” is a portrait of the 20th century viewed through the life of a person who is neither a hero nor a villain, but an ordinary person whose life is a mixture of bad and good luck.

We do not have to like him to appreciate the story Boyd has created for us. As we move from one episode to the next, we are captured by the story; we want to know: what happens next? Where does he go? Who will he meet? And when we get to the end of episode 4, we are sad that the story has come to an end.

Most of Boyd’s story about Logan works well. Having an ordinary person who meets some famous persons is an interesting method of composition. It works with Ernest Hemingway, who was a literary person. It also works with Ian Fleming, who became a literary person after World War II. It even works with the Duke and the Duchess of Windsor, although they were not members of the literary world. But it does not work every time.

In episode 4, which is set in the 1970s, Logan comes into contact with a small English group, which is connected with the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany. When Boyd lets Logan meet these people, he breaks his own pattern, because these people are not famous, they are infamous.

If you ask me, Boyd made a poor decision when he decided to let Logan meet these people. What he should have done was to let Logan meet a person who was famous in the 1970s, for instance an author or a politician. This would have worked, and this would have been in line with the pattern that is established in the first three episodes.

Apart from this unfortunate aberration, Boyd’s story about Logan works well. It is interesting and some important issues are raised along the way. This is a sign of good television. It draws you in and gives you something to think about at the same time.

“Any Human Heart” is a fictional story placed in a historical setting. I like it, and I want to recommend it, but I have to remove one star because of the flaw mentioned above. This is why I think it deserves a rating of four stars.

PS. If you like “Any Human Heart,” you may also like Restless, a miniseries that was aired on British television (BBC) in 2012 and released on DVD in 2014. It is based on a book from 2006. The book is written by William Boyd, who is also responsible for the screenplay.
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on 13 April 2017
Logan Mountstuart reminisces about a long and truly eventful life. We follow him from his childhood memories about a river in Uruguay through his Oxford days as a student intent on losing his virginity, to France where he meets Hemingway and gets the inspiration for his first novel, back to England where he marries into the aristocracy, to Spain from where he reports about the Civil War, to the Bahamas on a Bond like spy mission involving the abdicated King and Ms Simpson, to New York where he works in a friend's art gallery, back to England and into poverty as a now elderly man. And even now he gets involved in momentous events of his time, coming into contact with the Baader-Mainhoff gang and travelling to Germany and Switzerland on a mission for the terrorists. Exciting as his life is, this really about the women in his life. This man is a womanizer of the first order and we are witnesses of his various and very different relations with eight different women, among them the one true love of his life.

The cast is absolutely outstanding. First and foremost there are the three Logans: the great Jim Broadbent as the elderly man, Matthew Macfadyen as the adult and middle aged man, and the then practically unknown Sam Claflin as the young man. All three put in amazing performances, making us root for the not really very likable character of Logan. Others worth a special mention are Samuel West as the despicable older Peter Scabius, Tom Hollander as the Duke of Windsor and Gillian Anderson as Wallis Simpson - too delicious for words, both of them - and Kim Cattrall as Gloria.

The story plays out over four episodes, each with a running time of just over an hour. The producton values are exceptionally high. Sets and costumes are breathtaking, and the make up is exceptional. There is meticulous attention to detail when it comes to making the the three lead actors who play Logan at different ages so similar that it's nearly a shock to realize there's a new actor when the changes occur.

The included extra features are plentiful and a nice addition to the series. Overall, a box set well worth owning.
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on 19 January 2011
I have read the book and loved it so was not sure whether the DVD would match up to the same level of enjoyment. It did! Clever use of retrospective format. My husband had not read the book and enjoyed it as well. The 1st part took us up to past 1 o'clock on the saturday night! Obviously certain strong elements of the story were less well detailed as time would have been a factor. The prison and the royals part of the story I noticed especially.
Would recommend this as much as the book.
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on 14 September 2013
A fictional series about the life of a novelist, Logan Mountstuart. I thoroughly enjoyed this 6 hours of entertainment. For me it worked best just watching one episode at a time. Don't rush it. Like a quality mellow wine it deserves to be enjoyed at leisure!

I would have thought six hours was sufficient to capture the book (which I propose to read), but in fact there were a few unexplained loose ends. There is a sequence where he ends up in Switzerland in 1944, that created more questions than answers, and did not really make a lot of sense. Maybe the producer did it that way to invite viewer's speculation? I hope the book will be more detailed and elaborate.

Mountstuart believes only in luck rather than the existence of divine intervention and, there is no doubt that he has more than his share of the bad stuff!

The use of three different actors to play the slowly aging Mountstuart works well. They successfully maintain the continuity of character. Such as, his naivety which is a running theme throughout his life.

In the special features there are a few deleted scenes. Most deserved deletion, with the exception of one in which, in his dotage, he has a revelation about his final `novel'. I think this scene was very important and was surprised it was left out. Possibly it was done to try to enhance the poignancy at the end, but in fact the absence of that scene reduced its credibility. A pity.

However, the whole series remains a lovely meandering pleasure.
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on 23 September 2012
Any Human Heart [DVD]
This would have to be up there as one of my most favourite films. The character played by Matthew MacFadyen and Jim Broadbent would be a character that lived in any family during the 20th century. There's so much entertainment in this movie, it's hard to pick out any special part. The whole movie from start to finish, was riveting.
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on 28 April 2016
William Boyd is one of the best writers around and this TV adaptation of his wonderful book of the same name doesn't disappoint. It's the story of the life of Logan Gonzago Mountstuart from university into old age. It's the story of a fascinating life despite it being peppered with disappoinments. It has humour, envy, lust, self-doubt, pathos and pretty much every human emotion along the way. I can thoroughly recommend it.
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on 10 May 2014
Having read the book which was great I really enjoyed watching the DVDs and they were pretty true to the original story which was good. Very well acted too with the different actors showing the characters ageing and all looking remarkably like the younger ones which was clever. I recommend the book and the DVD. William Boyd is a v. good writer.
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