North and South (2004.)

This 4-part drama is an adaptation of the novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, telling of a girl, Margaret Hale, from Southern England who moves to the industrial town of Milton and comes face-to-face with the contemptuous mill-owner John Thornton.

I’ve seen this series many times and each time I’ve watched it, its added something new to my viewing experience. I can never tire of watching the story play out. Perhaps 4 hours is a bit long, but the story rolls out into a beautiful plot arc, with characters that you can care about.

The cast is stellar. Richard Armitage sparkles as the reticent, contemptuous mill owner who is more than he appears. He becomes a multi-faceted character who has many secrets which is obviously at the centre of his insecurities and he is a good person at the end.

Daniela Denby Ashe was good as Margaret Hale – learning to adjust to an unfamiliar town which was far removed from her hometown of Hampshire. She faces resistance and hostility from the mill owners with her actions towards the Milton poor, and suffers from heartbreak closer to home. The growing romance between John and Margaret was wonderful to watch and the undercurrents during the first proposal scene was thought-provoking because it was all about the force of the emotions.

The scenery of the drama is truly beautiful even when set in the darkest depths of Milton. By watching the scenes unfold I feel as if I am part of the story. The relationships between the two alternate families was well-put together and (from what I can remember) its pretty loyal to the otherwise word-heavy book. John’s sister Fanny added some dim-witted comedy to the scenes she was in.

With a beautiful, sweeping soundtrack, its a perfect dramatization of a turbulent period in history. As a dramatization and a story it has more grit than, say, Pride and Prejudice. For one thing, it is more real.

MY RATING: *** / *****


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