In 1939, young Oliver, Calypso, Polly and Walter visit friends and family in Cornwall. Spanish Civil War is over and WW2 has begun, so they enjoy their love life while they can. Decades later, they gather again, this time for a funereal.
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Presents the lives and loves of a family of cousins from 1939 to the present. Follows very closely the Mary Wesley novel. Begins with a funeral and uses the reminiscences of those gathered to fill in details in the lives of Richard and Helena and their nieces and nephews. Written by
The Second World War changes Middle Class behaviour and mores.
This is an exceptional adaptation of a very good novel. Virtually nothing is changed from the original and the story is beautifully told. Whilst it is not really necessary to place this very accessible saga in the context of more acknowledged works of art about the effects of the War on society (e.g. 'Brideshead Revisited') it does stand up well even in such illustrious company.
In just a few years attitudes, morals, priorities and sensitivities change beyond recognition for this appealing family group. A rather self-satisfied and indulgent family is first rocked by the effects of the Spanish Civil War (on Oliver). Then in rapid succession, as the effects of the Second World War take their grip, we get a believable series of events which make a modern morality tale.
There is adultery; pedophilia; under age sex; bereavement; racial prejudice; a 'marriage' with two fathers and one mother; homosexuality; a manslaughter; a 'flasher'; sentimentality; casual sex; women's liberation; alcoholism; rape Put like this, of course, its sounds improbable and sensational but in fact it is wholly believable.
The women are the stronger characters and it is they who get their act together best to survive the war. Tara Fitzgerald's Polly is the classic example a brilliant, pragmatic, practical and fabulously desirable woman who decides for herself what is right and brokes no argument. Her secret war work is clearly significant but she is equally adept at managing her unconventional private life - where she begins a relationship (which endures) with both of a set of twins each of whom fathers one of her children. Jennifer Eale's 'Calypso' is no less determined although her ambition (to marry a rich man) is selfish and she remains self-centered throughout. But there is honesty in her chosen lifestyle which is no less appealing than that of Polly. The young Sophy (Rebecca Hall) is again a strongly painted character who grows up rather too quickly as a result of the war. In the book this leads to a deflowering by the old goat Max Erstweiler when she is around 14 although the constraint of the TV adaptation do not (quite) allow this to be seen. Helena (Felicity Kendal), wife of the dull and pompous Richard, also breaks free in war conditions and Max shows her that life need not end at 40 with satisfying results for them both.
Although the men in the story are rather weaker than the women there are some touching vignettes and good performances from Paul Eddington (as Richard) and others. I can unhesitating recommend the DVD to anyone interested in the social changes of the Second World War in England.
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