Archive for the ‘based on novel’ Category

The Paradise (2012)

In based on novel, BBC, period drama, Recommendation, Review, romantic on 07/01/2013 at 11:55 am

A tale of capitalism, ambition and also love. John Moray (Emun Elliot) – the embodiment of new capitalism as it awoke in the 1870s – has opened a fancy department store for ladies wear, The Paradise, in North East England, suggested to be one of the country’s first ever. He is a charming self-made man with vibrant modern ideas (i.e. getting people to buy things they want rather than need). Denise Lovett (Joanna Vanderham) is a dressmaker’s daughter who ‘crosses over’ to work in The Paradise, and she is more entrepreneurial than any of the other staff, quickly igniting jealousy amongst them and catching the keen eye of Mr Moray. Meanwhile, Moray has a troubled past that haunts him in several ways, and Lady Katherine Glendenning (Elaine Cassidy) is determined to win his heart and his hand in marriage.

Intrigue and plot ensue as old values are set against new ones. Local traders are threatened by The Paradise as the gentry start choosing department store wear over tailored dresses, the mysterious death of Moray’s first wife plays up, and existential issues of ambition versus love all surface as the series progresses.  BBC’s The Paradise is a very entertaining and well told tale of our modern history, all wrapped up in sashes and ribbons. As we are today questioning our consumerism and capitalist morals, this series is an apt way of rediscovering how it all began.


Restless (2012)

In based on novel, BBC, Crime, new, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review, romantic, Spy, war on 29/12/2012 at 2:13 pm

Spies, I do love spy stories. WWII ones best. And Restless, adapted from the William Boyd novel by William Boyd himself, is a great two-part Christmas treat.

The story starts in the 1970s when seemingly ordinary and seemingly English mum Sally (Charlotte Rampling) reveals her secret past and identity to her daughter Ruth (Michelle Dockery) because she believes someone is trying to kill her. We then go back to where it all started: Paris in the 1930s and on until Sally’s spy story ends during the war, catching up with ongoings in ‘present day’ 1970s in the meantime. Double period drama, and the 1940s definitely wins ten times over on aesthetics.

Young Sally, or Eva, or whatever other assumed name she had when working for the British security services, is enchantingly played by Hayley Atwell. Her boss Lucas Romer (Rufus Sewel) is intriguing, seductive, dangerous and comforting all in one – and the story in the past unfolding simultaneously with the present keeps you interested in both throughout. There are some glitches in the plot, for example: if someone wanted and old woman dead, why didn’t they just go ahead and kill her? There are more little things that just don’t add up and it does stand out in a spy drama. But then, the story of the young Eva/Sally is otherwise so engaging that it’s easily forgiven.



The Making of a Lady (2012)

In based on novel, Classic Story, Crime, film, period drama, Recommendation, romantic on 18/12/2012 at 11:27 pm

Here’s a nice little Christmas treat from ITV. The title of this story is a bit deceptive: think less satin sashes, more creaky old house and macabre stuff. It starts with a poor girl who marries into aristocracy, but unlike in most historical dramas of this sort, that’s not the problem. The Making of a Lady, based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Making of a Marchioness, subtly turns thrilling and unsettling for reasons I won’t disclose because that would spoil it all.

This tale’s simple premise unwraps nicely and it’s very well made and entertaining. It’s more a thriller than anything else: not much dealing with the topics of the time or anything too complex. It keeps things quite close to home and hearth, but I think it deserves praise for this: it’s the story on its own that carries so well, it doesn’t even need any heightened class tensions or politics to make it more interesting. An overall great cast is complemented by Joanna Lumley‘s debut as the grumpy rich auntie, and she does it splendidly.

The Making of a Lady is on ITV player for UK viewers. A trailer will be available soon I’m sure.

Parade’s End (2012)

In based on novel, BBC, new, period drama, political, Recommendation, Review, romantic, series, war on 27/09/2012 at 7:49 pm

In case you hadn’t heard yet, the Beeb just did a little bit of what’s the Beeb’s terribly good at: make a superb historical drama. It stars brilliant actors, mainly Rebecca Hall and Benedict Cumberbatch, and involves the Great War, Tories and Suffragettes.

Neither the horrors of the war or the politics of the time make this 5 part drama worth watching for me. They are valuable ingredients, but not what make Parade’s End original, and maybe even remarkable. I have no idea if the novel of the same title by Ford Madox Ford features equally compelling protagonists – judging by this raving review the book is very much worth the read – but oh, they are compelling alright. Sylvia (Hall) and Christopher (Cumberbatch) are an unlikely couple strapped together by a racy moment of passion. Christopher in every sense represents conservatism: he is a brilliant man with stern values and morals. He sticks to his principles, which are built on morals. He is too ‘good’ for his own good. His unlucky wife Sylvia is the opposite. She represents everything he’s afraid of: she celebrates unbridled charm, wit and passion. She is easily bored, prone to sarcasm and hungry for love. Her husband’s love. Her provocations and tricks to gain his affections, however, push him away. The two grow distant, but long for each other. Christopher falls for a neat young girl who, even though she has terribly modern views being a Suffragette, awakens a passion that his wife seems to have killed in him. And thus the story continues.

Christopher and Sylvia are the estranged couple nobody wants to become. They torment each other throughout, and I was left desperately wanting them to cut their charades, to end their parades, and bloody get on with it and love each other. This is personal, and my favouring Sylvia’s capricious character over the in my view yawn-inducing Suffragette Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens) probably says more about me than about this story. That’s why I think it’s an engaging and persuasive watch.


Cracks (2009)

In Amazing, based on novel, film, period drama, Recommendation on 14/04/2012 at 2:19 pm

A brilliant psychological thriller based on the novel by Sheila Kohler, set in the claustrophobic yet intimate surroundings of a 1930s British all girls boarding school. Eva Green stars and sparkles as the girls’ inspirational and enigmatic diving teacher Miss G – but the intimate relationship between her and the girls is disrupted when Spanish girl Fiamma (María Valverde) from a far less shielded background joins them. Di (Juno Temple) finds in her position as Miss G’s favourite rivalled by Fiamma and the events that follow make Cracks a deeply unsettling but truly exceptionally told story.

Poppy Shakespeare (2008)

In based on novel, Recommendation, Review on 10/04/2012 at 4:42 pm

Ever been afraid you’d accidentally get locked into a mental institution? After this you might.

Poppy Shakespeare tells the story of two young women: Poppy (Naomie Harris) and N (Anna Maxwell Martin). N has been in the loony bin for thirteen years and she’s terrified to be declared sane, so she does everything in her power to remain mad. Poppy is a beautiful independent young mum who just lost her job. A freak administrative accident sends the perfectly sane and quite glamorous Poppy into the world of the dribbling insane. In order to prove her sanity, she will first need to get ‘mad money’, for which she will have to be proven mentally ill first.

This story, based on the Clare Allan novel, necessarily presupposes a daunting reality in which there really is no escape from the system. Although this seems almost dystopian, in this case it isn’t at al far fetched. Poppy’s despair is terribly realistic, and the way N’s reality, which is very far away from hers, is forced upon her only makes her experience more intense.

For N everything changes when Poppy comes into her life. As they develop an awkward but real sort of friendship, N struggles between doing everything to keep Poppy by her side (in the mental institution) and helping her to get out. It takes her too long to see when Poppy has stopped pretending to be mad, to see that her life is actually falling to pieces and she can’t cope.

Poppy Shakespeare is a times very funny, but it’s essentially a deeply tragic story. It’s a beautiful one too and there is no other way of telling it, so no comments there. What probably makes it powerful is that absolutely any viewer can relate to Poppy, and this could happen in almost any country, regardless of regime, or your age, race or sex.

The quite exceptional Anna Maxwell Martin won a BAFTA for her part as N in this Channel 4 drama.


Birdsong (2012)

In based on novel, BBC, new, period drama, Review, romantic, series, war on 29/01/2012 at 10:47 pm

Brand new BBC war romance – yes, another one. Birdsong is based on the acclaimed Sebastian Faulks novel by the same name and tells the story of a young man called Stephen (Eddie Redmayne) and a woman he falls in love with, set against the horrors of the Great War in the trenches in France.

Many things are good about this adaptation: the acting, the writing, convincing drama. Still, I probably will have forgotten all about it very soon. My guess is that this is because it lacks significance. There’s nothing special about the romance itself, the protagonist is quite ordinary and doesn’t go through any interesting personal journey or the like, and there are countless better stories telling the horrifying reality of WWI.

This may have been very different in the novel, in which case this just isn’t a very good adaptation. In general I’d say that this is a decent production, but nothing more. If you feel like watching a good romance, go ahead. Just don’t expect to be blown away by its originality.



Dorian Gray (2009)

In Amazing, based on novel, Classic Story, Crime, film, Giggles, Horror, period drama, Recommendation, Review, romantic, supernatural on 30/12/2011 at 9:19 pm

This amazingly seductive production is quite a tribute to The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), that classic bit of praiseworthy cultural heritage from the hand and genius mind of Oscar Wilde.

Ben Barnes is a convincing Dorian: naive in the beginning, arrogant and attractive in the middle and a tormented wolf in sheep’s clothes towards the ending. Colin Firth, as to be expected, is a nothing less than excellent Lord Henry Wotton in this horrific tale about eternal youth, about the glorification of youth and its effect on 19th century London society.

While most films that attempt to tell classic stories like this tend to emphasise only the least interesting bits (the general plot), this one somehow made enough room for the good stuff to shine through (the meaning of the general plot) without being annoyingly explanatory. Plus it is a real treat for the eyes. Not only because Dorian is (necessarily) pretty – all of it is: London, the gentry and their attire, the dark blue skies and… some special effects that do give this surreal tale just that extra bit of oomph.

Just Henry (2011)

In based on novel, film, new, period drama, Recommendation, Review, war on 19/12/2011 at 9:58 pm

This brand new ITV Christmas drama makes for a very charming winter watch. Just Henry is a coming-of-age tale based on the Michelle Magorian YA novel, which in the end is about what Henry (Josh Bolt) finds out truly matters in life. You can probably guess the answer, which is also why it’s perfect for snuggling up beside the fire. Mind you, it’s in no way soppy. It’s a beautiful story played by an extremely able cast.

Henry, a teenage boy in a confounded post WWII Britain, tries to find his identity amidst his torn family. His mother (the charming and talented Elaine Cassidy) remarried a kind man because Henry’s father (Stephen Campbell Moore) supposedly died a war hero. His grandmother (Sheila Hancock) pours vermin onto the fragile new family relationship by attempting to turn the young lad against his mother and stepfather (Dean Andrews). The plot really takes off when young Henry receives his father’s war medal in the post and Henry begins asking questions about what really happened.

If you’re outside of the UK and can’t catch up on ITV: the DVD is released on Amazon. For lack of a trailer, watch the whole film directly here on ITV:

Happy midwinter festivities from The Bella Review.


Never Let Me Go (2010)

In based on novel, film, Recommendation, Review on 28/11/2011 at 12:21 pm

The story of Kathy, Ruth and Tommy is all but ordinary. Never Let Me Go, a film based on Kazuo Ishiguro’s acclaimed 2005 novel by the same title, takes us back into the young lives of these three, somewhere in the rural England of the 1970s. As the story progresses it becomes clear that something is amiss. The build up and unravelling of the plot is quite subtly done – and I here attempt to give as little away as possible.

Delicate drama here achieves its tremendously difficult objective: to show what happens to people in a highly dystopian reality. Narrator Kathy (Carey Mulligan/young: Izzie Meikle-Small), her friends Ruth (Keira Knightley/ young: Ella Purnell) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield/ young: Charlie Rowe) grow up in an orphanage far from the real world and are fed nasty versions of reality in the outside world. Also, they are special; they are different. It is only towards the end of their story that the full, unabridged truth about them is revealed.

As I am already hopping around spoilers there is little more I can say about this beautiful film other than that it is moving and very well acted, by Mulligan in particular, who makes the most complex mixture of emotions surface effortlessly. The remainder of my praise goes to the writer who succeeded at making things seemingly impossible quite confrontationally realistic.