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 Camomile Lawn is one of my favorite British TV adaptations. It's based on a book by Mary Wesley, and was first shown in 1992. The director is Sir Peter Hall who founded both the National Theatre and the RSC. There are five episodes and it's compulsive viewing.
It's a family drama set during the early years of World War II. In the last episode the characters meet at a funeral thirty years later, giving it similarities to the Big Chill. The main characters are seven cousins / friends who spend part of their summers in Cornwall at the home of Aunt Helena (Felicity Kendall) and Uncle Richard (Paul Eddington). The story begins in August 1939, before the Germans invade Poland. The friends, are mostly 18 or 19 and join the war effort when war is declared. The action then moves to London during the Blitz. The young cast all have an abundance of energy and charisma, especially Jennifer Ehle (Young Calypso), Tara Fitzgerald (Young Polly)and Rebecca Hall (Young Sophy).
Philip Larkin famously said that sexual intercourse began in 1963, but he needed to get out more. With death all around them, the lead characters live for today and take a hedonistic approach to sex and booze. As the older Polly says (Virginia McKenna) "it was a happy time."
Mary Wesley creates strong female characters who all seem wise, pragmatic and fun. The men mostly seem flawed and weak in some way. They are either dim-witted, obsessed with sex or confused about what they want. Eddington (Uncle Richard) is regarded by his family as something of a joke. Toby Stephens (Young Oliver) plays a left wing idealist who serves in the Spanish Civil War, lusts after Jennifer Ehle and complains about spending his army career running away from the Germans. Oliver Cotton (Max) plays a violinist who escapes from the clutches of the Nazis in Vienna and chases after the entire female cast.
In Episode Five we meet older versions of the characters, including: Oliver (Richard Johnson), Sophy (Claire Bloom) and Calypso (Rosemary Harris)who talk about their past. Overall, it's fun, fast paced, beautifully written and brilliantly directed.
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