Blog Closed

Posted: 13/03/2015 in Uncategorized

No More Silver Lining.

This was a fixed front page for the last couple of years, but as that makes it much harder to browse old posts, it has been moved into the ‘Pages’ tab and I’m just dropping in a post for any new visitors. Please do feel free to add comments or link back to posts here, I still respond to feedback.

Thank you for visiting!


The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet, UK/Fr, 2010)

The One Line Review: Beautiful, elegiac paean to a bygone era and the inexorable loss that is fatherhood.

The Verdict: I have always loved Belleville Rendez-Vous, so I had been eagerly awaiting Chomet’s next project for some time. That means I held it up to high standards. It didn’t let me down. The Illusionist isn’t in the same vein as its predecessor, it isn’t surreal or exaggerated, this is pehaps the result of the source material; Jaques Tati, revered silent French comic wrote this script for himself, late on in his career. A tale about an entertainer left behind by the times and slowly fading into obscurity would have been a brave and poignant change of direction for the slapstick artist, but the script stayed on the shelf, either he, or more likely the money men, were too afraid of tainting his public image. It’s worked for Bill Murray though. Still, his loss means we gain the sumptuous animation of Chomet, drawn on location is Glasgow using British animators for the most part. This film is just lovely to look at, it’s like walking round a gallery of the best watercolours you can imagine for an hour and a half. It isn’t a criticism, but the film feels much longer than it’s slim eighty minute running time.

Running alomgside this visual ballad of a waning star, is the platonic love story of Tatischeff and Alice. She adopts him as a father figure and he gives everything to please her, to preserve her belief in magic. As she slowly outgrows him he goes to greater and greater lengths to keep her happy, while she obliviously takes it all for granted. It is a tragic representation of paternal love that we rarely see onscreen. It’s sad and it’s beautiful.

Brothers (Jim Sheridan, US, 2009)

The One Line Review: Portman brings her Oscar game a year before Black Swan drops in this fascinating and largely low key relationship drama exploring the redemptive power of grief.

The Verdict: Jim Sheridan, who made powerful immigrant drama In America, draws robust and nuanced performances from Natalie Portman, Jake Gyllenhaal and Tobey Maguire. A tale of two halves, the first is concerned with Portman dealing with being widowed by the Iraq war, Gyllenhaal the black sheep finding redemption by looking after his brother’s family and Maguire not dead at all, slowly losing his humanity as a prisoner of islamist insurgents. The dichotomy between the gently evolving relationship at home, the burgeoning happiness, and the escalating horror and loss of humanity in the Middle East is stark and shocking. The depths Sam sinks to, in a hole in the Afgham desert, are truly horrifying.

The second half is where it all kicks off though. Sam comes home, broken and wracked with guilt to find the hole he left behind has been easily filled by the reprobate brother he was always favoured over. Tommy is forced out of the happy dynamic he and Grace have established with the children and Grace is torn between the man who was there for her at the worst time of her life and the violent, unpredictable shell of the man she once loved.

Brothers is all about what goes unsaid; feelings and suspicions and guilt and remorse all swirl around the wonderfully photogenic faces of the three leads, without the need to signpost every detail in exposition. I’ve yet to see the Swedish original, but it seems the Irish helmer has taken a leaf out the European’s filmmaking book, rather thanfollow the Hollywood tradition of heavyhanded remakes that miss the point.

The One Line Review: There is nothing right about this film and no excuses either.

The Verdict: The Ls and Bs of Queer Diaspora were up in arms about the cloudy sexual identities, ‘lesbian sleeps with man’ cliché and cheating. Personally, I couldget past that, but I was outraged that such a heavyweight cast were wasted. Worse yet, I found the kids respectively obnoxious and tedious- both entirely unsympathetic. I have been hearing about this film for months, on the webs and by word of mouth and whilst there is a lot of debate about the nature of the portrayal of a long term lesbian relationship in the film, most people did say it was a good film with good performances.

I hated every minute of it. I like all of the stars and have really enjoyed other films they have been in, I quite like Lisa Cholodenko too, but everything about TKAAR made me cringe. All of the kissing and the sex just felt unseemly and unecessary, the endless Cali therapy-culture talk was awful too (to my British ears it sounded like satire, but they played it seriously.) I thought the scene where Annette Bening sings Joni Mitchell at the dinner table would never end- I would have hit fast forward but my hands were occupied trying to cover my eyes and ears.

I suppose the point of the film is worn on its sleeve: Whether despite, or because, of their parenting and parentage, the eponymous kids do eventually make the right choices. They have angst and nueroses and bad influences, but ultimately, they sort themselves out without significant outside influence. It seems that, though they may be flawed, the adults in their lives do have good intentions and subsequently, the kids are alright. But the way the point is made misfires.
I wish I could say something in favour of this film, it looked quite nice I suppose, but I hope I never see it again.

and seriously- what offical allows people to call their child Laser?

My One Line Review: This concept just can’t work as live action, it just doesn’t, despite a very respectable performance from Norton.

The Verdict: The Hulk is an iconic character and his story is universal in a way: It’s emblematic of everyone’s internal struggle with their demons. It’s a big shiny metaphor for the repression of civilised society and the innate brutality of men. It’s a cautionary tale about playing God and taking the bounds of medical science too fucking far [too late, cf.animal/human hybrid embryos.] It’s a love story riddled with classic anxieties about not being good enough for someone special, or scaring your partner away when they see the real you- Beauty and the Beast.

Norton’s Banner scenes are likeable, they riff off Hulk lore with reference to stretchy trousers and such, he struggles with his monster and is a winning mix of scientific and rugged. All good.

Banner: [Speaks Portuguese] Don’t make me…hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry

Local Cutthroat: Eh?

Then Bruce Hulks out and unconvincing CGI crashes in. It’s a lot better than the Ang Lee version but still. it just kills the suspension of disbelief. The grossly OTT cartoon villain is just silly too. Don’t insult my intelligence now Lois Letterier, whoever the fuck you may be.  We know, bioweapons are bad, the military needs to be better regulated. Thanks. Nuance is possible in our protagonist but the antagonist and supporting characters? Broad strokes please! The big green man will distract them.

As a comic, even as a cartoon, The Hulk is a powerful allegory, on celluloid? Just falls short.

My One Line Review: Utterly tragic, desolate expose of the legacy of abuse.

The Verdict: This is maybe saddest film I’ve ever seen. Certainly the most heartbreaking live action. It is probably on a par with When The Wind Blows and Grave of the Fireflies. I have read any number of reviews saying Mysterious Skin is too explicit, or exploitative or somehow condones child abuse. It is none of these things, it simply acknowledges that these horrors do happen, on our doorsteps, and asks what happens when those children grow up? The ones who aren’t suicides or breakdowns, the ones who go under the radar and just muddle through.

That is the true tragedy at the heart of this film, it isn’t just what happens to the saucer-eyed little boy, it’s that he knows what was done to him and others and that whether or not they ever acknowledge and confront it, it will never be okay. The controversy arises from Neil’s complicity in his abuse and that of others, but I think Araki is trying to show the depth of corruption that arises from systematic abuse. Neil’s subsequent lack of regard for his own safety, his utter detachment are the inescapable legacy of his childhood.

This is by no means a comfortable watch. I am not one for visceral response  and I’m certainly not given to crying at films, but I flinched and shied away and as the haunting melancholic strains of Sigur Ros scored the closing shot,  two broken young men unable to reconcile themselves to one moment in childhood, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s thousand yard stare, I welled up.

A powerful and terrible elegy that will stay with you for some time.

I’m not a fan of online lists. I have tried to provide considered content on this blog and not lazy journalistic filler, but I have made a pledge to be less precious and post more often, so there will be a higher incidence of fluff betwixt the articles henceforth. In typically contrary fashion though, I have waited till list season has drawn to a close before casting my pearls of wisdom.
As best I can, I have tried to recall all the films I saw for the first time in 2011. This is a valuable exercise, at times surprising. I am always chiding myself for not keeping any kind of log of the films I watch or the books I read, or the gigs and shows I attend. I know it would serve me well when I am seeking new reads, or as a source of reference when compiling lists etc, but it just isn’t my style- I am not a meticulous keeper of records, I just like to absorb my culture (pop or otherwise) and move on. The drawback of course being a few months/weeks/days later I have no idea what I have consumed.

So: I can remember all four films I saw at the cinema I believe and LoveFilm helpfully lets me know what they’ve sent me. Anything from Blockbuster or on Television I’ve had to scrounge up from memory and I know there are significant omissions. I will cast an eye over my in-house collection and try to recall which are new additions. Still, there are about eighty odd on my list already, which isn’t bad considering I thought I’d hardly seen any films this year. I can’t even imagine the number I must have seen in the last five years.
That’s clearly far too many to summarise in one blog post so, in honour of the Year of the Apocalypse, I shall select twenty and review each in only one sentence- from these I shall nominate twelve  to receive a more considered appraisal over the next twelve days. Hope you enjoy.

Miyazaki's Ponyo

1. The Illusionist (Sylvain Chomet, UK/Fr, 2010)
Beautiful, elegiac paean to a bygone era and the inexorable loss that is fatherhood.

2. Mysterious Skin (Gregg Araki, US/NL, 2004)
Utterly tragic, desolate expose of the legacy of abuse.

3. Victor/Victoria (Blake Edwards, UK/US, 1982)
Unexpectedly risqué and open about gay lifestyles in the Seventies VV makes subversive use of Andrews’ impeccable voice. [Apparently it was made in the Eighties. Comment stands]
4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright, US/UK/Ca, 2010)
Just perfectly put together: the look, the dialogue, the casting- someone finally perfected the formula.
5. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, US, 2010)
There is nothing right about this film and no excuses either.

Mysterious Skin

Read the rest of this entry »

*****Full Spoilers******

The Girl In The Park (Auburn, 2007. US)

This is a recurring phenomena and a recent viewing of The Girl In The Park set me trying to define it. I’ll outline my understanding of the characters and their relationship, to try and replicate the effect the dénouement had for me.

From the moment Louise (Kate Bosworth) breezes into Julia’s (Sigourney Weaver) life, we know Julia is being set up for a fall. The ambiguity over whether Louise really could be the long lost Maggie doesn’t make us hopeful, it just means the cataclysm, when it comes, could just be even more painful. To lose the same daughter twice would be more than Julia could withstand.

A sense of foreboding shoots through the scenes of domestic harmony, not from the moment Julia takes Louise in, nor when Julia casually deposits a key and leaves her home and possessions to the disposal of a self-confessed conwoman. No, these events are ostentatiously disquieting, it is the joyful equilibrium that is riddled with jangling apprehension. We wait with baited breath for it all to come crashing down, for a great confrontation; perhaps most anxiously for poor, stoic, Chris’s reaction. Of course at the family wedding, this is the classic setting for simmering familial tension to come to a head. An uninvited guest, estranged parents, alcohol, a stranger apparently more privy to a mother’s affections than her own son: all the strings are taut on Chris’s bow and as Julia stands to make her speech there is an almost audible clanging of The Bell of Doom. Then she says some heartfelt things and sits back down. For a couple of seconds we reel with the sense of narrowly averted catastrophe the, without warning or preamble, the other shoe drops.

The final scene, after familial reconciliation, after Chris finally says the dreadful words that Julia had perhaps never heard aloud, Maggie/Louise reappears begging sanctuary and offering (again), finally the truth and what does Julia say? ‘I don’t care.’ Such a loaded statement. Louise hears it as rejection, until she sees the open door [*ahem* METAPHOR] and suddenly they become words that surely we all want to hear. To offer up our past sins and failings, to be told ‘no matter, I accept you as you are, without judgement, censure or condition.’

Before, in the park, Julia had stared at Louise’s bare legs, then forced herself to look away before she could see whether the feted birthmark was there or not. She didn’t want to know, she wanted to leave herself with hope. Hope is an infinitely better feeling than Certainty. If this truly was her Maggie then that would create as much pain as it cured. Her next attempt at verifying her speculation ends in both women fully subscribing to the fantasy, each using the other to fill a void in her own life.

At the last though, when she and we both know for certain that this is not, and could never really have been, her Maggie, that revelation isn’t crushing. Julia realises that the relationship she has forged with this lost young woman is mutually beneficial and that she leads to let little Maggie go, to let her rest. In an instant, she makes her peace and the two sit down to dinner, entirely at ease. The end. There is reconciliation with Chris and Celeste, joy at the new baby, the prospect of a loving and uncomplicated relationship with boss man. No great cataclysm, but no great resolution either. It almost doesn’t matter that the core question- what happened to Maggie?- was never answered. It was almost a MacGuffin to get us to this point. I was surprised that the whole precarious zephyr didn’t go down in a ball of flames, but glad that Julia found some peace, even that lonely, amoral Louise found some rest. Not what I was anticipating, but this fragile equilibrium is as much as we could ask for.

So this set me to thinking about other acceptably ambiguous endings, with no great or final resolution. Thus far my list comprises:

My Summer of Love (Pawlikowski, 2004. UK)

Plenty of people were frustrated by this ending, but I think I get it. Dissenting voices said ‘why didn’t Mona just kill Tamsin?’ But 16/17 year olds fall in and out of love all the time, teenagers betray each other and get their hearts broken and, crucially, get over it. Your average adolescent girl does not commit murder with her bare hands every time she gets dumped.

The thing is, it was all a game for Tamsin; she’s spoilt, lonely and deprived of emotionally valid relationships, especially with people her own age. Plus, potentially she is actually gay, which could well be worse in a boarding school than it is at a normal school I suspect. All of this compounds into an irrepressible desire to fabricate a world to inhabit and a lack of social and emotional empathy. She’s not evil.

Mona, however, is a practical girl. She was seduced by Tamsin, her self-assurance, her knowledge and exoticism; so different from the salty, working class Yorkshire villagers she’s used to, but she has her head on her shoulders really. She’s hurt, more deeply than she could have imagined, by the betrayals of first her brother, then her manipulative lover, but she will roll up her sleeves and carry on. This is a girl who bought a moped with no engine because it was going cheap. ‘Drowning’ Tamsin was the end of the game, the line underneath their sundrenched fantasy. It couldn’t really end any other way, there was no happy ever after that could be attained here, and murder-suicide-tabloid frenzy? Too Hollywood, too dramatic. Here things just fizzle out, that fire and drive of youth just fades away and we settle into nothing. So I didn’t mind this ending.

I think most people’s displeasure at this conclusion, or absence thereof, stems from the lack of catharsis, the dearth of dramatic resolution. Much like unsatisfactory old life- it just keeps on, with nothing much of anything to draw a line under each phase as it passes.

Julia (Erick Zonca, 2008. UK)

Well this film just kept surprising me. For the first hour I just hated this character, I could not abide her; even the way she breathed grated on me. Then, as the situation escalated way beyond her control, I inexorably found myself rooting for her to succeed. I kept hoping each double blind and bluff would pay off, whilst constantly bracing myself for a bloody, tragic dénouement or ignominious capture. The little boy was bestowed with so little character that I didn’t really care whether he ended up with his authoritarian grandfather or loco addict mother, as long as he didn’t die at the hands of Mexican gangsters.

As each machination unfolded I found myself thinking ‘do it, do it!’ So when Julia ends up with no money, no car, escalating debts, wanted by the FBI, stood on the central reservation of a foreign motorway clutching another woman’s child and sobbing with relief, it wasn’t what I thought was going to happen, and it isn’t really the outcome I’d hoped for, but it was okay. She had, in some oblique way, found redemption. The boy was safe (as safe as he could be in the circumstances) and no one had, at that moment, been shot or arrested. Apart from people earlier in the film. An uneasy equilibrium is reached and it’s alright. The palpable relief as the child is released, the genuine human emotion that oases between the two at their reunion, despite the circumstances of their acquaintance, those are valuable emotions; this is a stirring moment, though we may be left unsure what it means.

There should be a word for this type of ending. Is there? Tell me. Feel free to pitch in with other films that end in an unexpected but ultimately acceptable, if not entirely satisfactory fashion.

It’s Remembrance Sunday and I want to pay my respects. Processing, as I do, by means of popculture, I see a themed viewing as an apt means of tribute. So this is my recommended viewing for after the service. I’ve tried to avoid the obvious- there are no de facto (world) war films in the list- but I thought about National Identity, Pride and Heroism, Freedom and Liberation. They are a loose frame around a day of reflection. In no particular order:

1. This Is England (Meadows, 2007, UK)

Against the backdrop of the Falklands, which is approaching its 30th anniversary, a flawed but brilliant flick about identity and the freedoms soldiers died protecting being undermined by our own people, on our own soil. Thatcher hadn’t fucked us right up yet, but she was getting there, nationalism had an ugly grip on national pride and we had to reassert our place on the world stage. Without invading anyone for a change.

2. Small Island (BBC, 2009, UK)

A two-part BBC adaptation of Andrea Levy’s immense novel. The oft-untold story of West Indian volunteers who gave up life in paradise to come to Europe and fight for British liberty. They were granted citizenship, but that didn’t afford them equality when they got here. A stain on our upstanding record, but it reveals an important chapter in how we came to be the diverse Britain we are today, and why black people here are British and not ‘African-English’ or something. Because although race isn’t a big part of my personal identity construction, British racial unity is very important to me and my sense of nation. Young Ashley Walters is a fine actor and a living example of redemption and rehabilitation for disadvantaged inner city men. The tiny personal victories and losses of the characters in Small Island every bit as important as the almost incomprehensible scale of the military campaigns.

3. Four Lions (Morris, 2010, UK)

Maybe a controversial choice, surely an irreverent one, but it is a true testament to the British spirit that we are ready to satirise our biggest threat (beyond climate change.) We are free to depict the enemy within, to identify, vilify and mollify their actions and our fears. That is what living in a free and fair society means in 2011- we may not always be able to protect our streets, but we’ve always got spirit. In the blitz sense, not in the cheerleading way. There’s nothing more British than laughing at that which may well be our undoing, over a cup of tea and a digestive, or a pint and a kebab, on the Tube breathing in other people’s breath or on the beach breathing in brine and sewage. You’ve got to laugh.

4. Children of Men (Cuarón, 2006, UK/USA)

This is a dark film, but beautifully shot. A dystopian near future where more people are displaced by war than have a nation it seems. This is, above all, a picture about the heroism of the British Everyman. Despite his apathy, his dejection and the starkness of the odds, Clive Owen’s Theo goes to great lengths to fight for someone else’s freedom. In a Britain torn apart by nationalist infighting and homegrown terrorism he still recognises the rights of the individual and the need for the greater good and he acts on it. Like every Brit should and I hope I would. This is the flick that made me think- ‘we’re in a state right here, but maybe what our grandfathers fought for wasn’t all for nothing.’

5. When The Wind Blows (Murakami, 1986, UK)

The saddest animation ever made? This sucker punch of a film, in Raymond Briggs’ gentle watercolour, is a Cold War horror story in picture book’s clothing but also a sweet tale of love and innocence from the generation who withstood the Nazi onslaught and still raised our parents to mind their Ps and Qs. Only one couple appear in the whole film, but the unspoken desolation, the implied genocide, chills you more than any slasher flick or CGI spectacular. It is, after all, a day of reflection. Let us also be thankful that during those fraught days the war machine for once did not grind into action. CND- I salute you too.

6. My Neighbour Totoro (Miyazaki, 1988, JP)

The only non-British film on the list (not deliberately, I must be feeling patriotic.) This is one of my three go to films when I just need to feel glad. [Bande A Part and Enchanted if you’re wondering- Sx] It is sweet and unsullied by worldliness and as the adorable hand drawn credits roll, I just smile. It’s a rare thing for me and in general. For something to be pleasant with no agenda, for children to start off innocent… and remain so, is like an orchid in December. This film reminds me of when I thought the world was essentially good and that fairness was a reality, rather than a nice idea; on a day when we think of the lives we could have had, if not for the bravery and sacrifice of people who would never know us, I think it’s important to appreciate simple pleasures too, otherwise what was the point of our deliverance?

13.11.11 Remembrance Sunday 2011.

TELL NO ONE (Ne le dis à personne): Canet, 2006. Fr.

I recently saw an old post on the best surprise lesbians in mainstream films and TNO cropped up.  They were referring to Kristin Scott Thomas’ Hélène and her relationship with the protagonist’s sister Anne. The writer was celebrating the fact that the women’s marriage is utterly unremarkable- it isn’t a plot point, none of the characters have to ‘deal’ with it, there is no great moment of exposition. After Ellen also had this to say.

So I got to thinking, why are they gay? Did the writers just think ‘meh, why not?’ But then it became increasingly obvious that, in order for the narrative to succeed as it does, they had to be that orientation.

Main man Alex is best friends with his sister-in-law ; they lunch together and have an easy rapport. True, he could easily have been great friends with a brother-in-law, but the dynamics are different in exclusively male relationships. Had there been two men meeting to covertly discuss online activity, it would have seemed exclusive and conspiratorial- a cabal of masculinity- to Anne’s detriment. Their exclusion of Anne would have taken on, whether inadvertent or not, a patina of chauvinism, of male superiority, which the characters and situation do not warrant. These are educated, sophisticated, middle class Francs; the gender war is not of their world.

So why not have him be best friends with his brother’s wife? Well that’s problematic on two fronts: If Alex is spending so much time alone with a straight woman then, whether intended or not, there will always be a suggestion of sex. We will question the pair’s motives, instead of focusing on their engagement with the central mystery. Knowing that both parties are assured in their mutual lack of attraction allays the anxiety of their alliance and prevents any shadow of doubt over Alex’s devotion to Margot.

Then there’s the matter of the conspiracy around which the film centres. ***SPOILERS below***

Would Margot have confided in a brother-in-law in the way she trusts Anne? I’d wager not, not least because a man most likely would not have reacted in the same way. Obviously this is a generalisation, but a more likely male response would be to lead with force in the first instance, rather than waiting to plot an elaborate entrapment. Anne’s lack of action, and years of silence I cannot explain in terms of gender behaviour though. It is significant that Alex never comes to Anne during the film, though he trusts Hélène implicitly. He also knows Hélène can keep this information from Anne easily, and without guilt.

So, by logical deduction, Alex’s confidante must be the wife of his gay sister. (Well technically, he could ally himself with the husband of his gay brother, but that would preclude that casting of the estimable Kristen Scott Thomas and again, would bring a machismo to the film that would not benefit the characters or the story.)

More of a telly post than a filmy one- again, but it is all long form, screen-based popculture and I’m trying to differentiate The Noctuary from SL. More on Downton Abbey soon to come over there.

My AS Film Studies tutor always tried to impress upon us that each film is a ‘CULTURAL ARTEFACT’, every celluloid submission reflects and represents the society and era in which it is made- even if the content is ostensibly concerned with a near or distant past, future or part of the world. This is perhaps a bit of a stretch, but the evidence suggested that there was more than a grain of applicable theory in it. To use an inept metaphor. His favourite example was how Hitchcock’s adaptation of The Thirty-Nine Steps spoke of pre-war anxieties about fascist Europe.

I mention this because, subsequent to having this idea ingrained in my critical mind, I have been pondering the significance of the rash of backwards-looking British dramas of late. With the new series of ITV’s cracking rendering of early-century manners and mores upon us, now in the midst of the Great War, what are we trying to say to ourselves?Cast of ITV's Downton Abbey

With The Hour [which I entirely failed to watch, despite downloading all the episodes from iPlayer], the Beeb’s misfired 60s kitsch-and-conspiracy series, opening up dramatic lines of enquiry into our increasingly activist Cold War media, (to poor viewing figures and decidedly ambivalent critical response), it seems that period of our past isn’t salient to the collective conscious at present. America’s continual nostalgic love affair with the 50s and early 60, so well served by the much-vaunted Mad Men, continues apace though; The Playboy Club amongst others garnering a high profile, with its promise of more glossy, stylish misogyny and unfettered Capitalism.

Colin Forth in The King's SpeechThe nation capturing if uninspired The King’s Speech and Auntie’s attempted revival of Upstairs Downstairs [To continue without the venerable Eileen Atkins, alas] dealt with the ailing Upper Class’ internal malaise and uncomfortable proximity to fascism and even Nazism. The Hour’s Romola Garai (no stranger to period projects) also starred a couple of years ago in appeasement thriller Glorious 39 with strangely beautiful Eddie Redmayne [Andrew Garfield-alike and shrewd chooser of roles. I’d love to see those two play brothers with Harry Treadaway.] SpThe Night Watch BBCeaking of Treadaway, he gave a lovely turn in the woefully insubstantial The Night Watch last month. With such sound and complex source material and a reliable history of success for Sarah Waters adaptations, The Beeb really could have thrown some cash at this- or at least afforded a more appropriate runtime. The format of the novel very clearly lends itself to three hour long episodes. As it was, we were simply left with a nuance-free précis, albeit an impeccably cast one. With the exception, that is, of leading lady Anna Maxwell-Martin, entirely misplaced as Kay.

Wartime tales of ordinary Brits are so commonplace as to be virtually irrelevant to a discussion about fictional reflections of current concerns [I mean never, ever forget, but it is really time we got over it], but recent offerings The Night Watch and 2009’s (also exquisitely cast but narratively insufficient adaptation) Small Island have at least proffered a perspective from typically under-represented subcultures beguiled and let down by the promise of social progression that wove itself through the war effort.

The  Night Watch- Duncan and Fraser

With austerity, rioting, a callous and oblivious Tory government, endemic social stratification and a demonised and disenfranchised youth in mass unemployment, a slew of films and programmes full of 60s activism, 70s social seesawing and general strikes and 80s boom and crippling bust seem inevitable; those times are far back enough now to be scrutinised, rather than skimmed for mere nostalgia- and there are clearly lessons we’ve failed to learn.

Back to the Abbey (never seen monk mind you- don’t think wet cousin Matthew counts) and it seems women really ran the households in those days and Society, for the most part. With our emancipation has come a loss of gumption, an inability to guide the affairs of man; what with them now being our affairs I suppose. There has been an alarming backslide amongst women of my generation, afraid of being labelled ‘Feminists’, wanting our modern men to be macho and commanding, asking our fathers for our hands in marriage, before said fathers ‘give’ aforementioned daughters ‘away’ at the altar. I can’t even begin to express my despair and disgust at educated, socially advantaged young women in a progressive First World country, demanding to be made chattels and passed from the possession of whatever man happened to impregnate her mother into the ownership of anyone else who happens to own a penis. Never mind what’s in it for you ladies.

Harking back to my opening comments on cultural artefacts, I couldn’t say whether the series seeks to chastise modern women for wasting their emancipation or celebrate the fact that we no longer need to subvert established power structures. This is clearly a time for introspection, I feel. The tenth anniversary of the 11th September and all that ensued is inevitably instigating that, but more recent events should be a more potent catalyst to take a long hard look at our national character and the values we uphold. On the heels of Boardwalk Empire making its way across the Atlantic, followed by Mildred Pierce, perhaps this isn’t a strictly British (or rather, English) phase of reflection, though self-analysis isn’t really the US way. I don’t really know what we’re trying to say to ourselves yet, only time will tell.