A Harlot’s Progress (2006)

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A TV film about a courtesan who wrecks the life of 18th century British artist, William Hogarth (Toby Jones) through his beguilement of her.

I had no idea what this was going to be about. I came across it by accident and it seemed worth watching. To begin with, it put me in mind of something akin to Fanny Hill. The film also jars the difference between the 18th century and the modern plight of girls with no other option in a cruel society, with only their bodies as commodity.

It also shows how prostitutes were judged by society and shamed for their transgression. I went into watching this completely oblivious, which I really think helped. It managed to meld modern news audio with the drama unfolding and this was such an engaging way of doing it that it had me gripped until the very end.

While the central character of Mary Collins was of course fictional it could embody any number of unfortunate women within a historical context, and although the jumps from her as rising harlot to destitute mother were a bit jumpy it just broke my heart watching the narrative unfold. The ending was sad as well and I was glad the story went the way it did. I’m not too sure what I was looking for when watching this – a happy ending for Mary, perhaps? I’m not too sure.

A good TV film to watch out for if you ever see it around.

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

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