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Set in 1870s England, the story tells of Annabella Lagrange and the terrible secret her wealthy parents have kept from her. When she finally learns the truth, she runs away and eventually finds solace in the company of her family's former groom, a young Irishman with the very Spanish name of Manuel Mendoza. Together they travel the Northumbria countryside from job to job in his horse and caravan, Annabella trapped in limbo between her upper class upbringing which has rejected her, and the working class who are sometimes suspicious of her, only Manuel understanding her situation. Written by
The only reason to watch this is to see a pre-North and South, pre-Downton Abbey Brendan Coyle. The usually lovely Nigel Havers is painful as a stereotypical villain, and though Coyle too is slumming it, we at least see his charm. Catherine Cookson's characters are two-dimensional, her plots plodding and unlikely, her portrayal of period social mores and class conflict ridiculously exaggerated. The film's so-called foreshadowing is heavy-handed and so is the acting. Not even otherwise talented, well-trained British actors can really rise above the crummy script. There are better historical fiction writers out there worth dramatising, I'm sure, but somehow Cookson's style melodrama and tin ear (for both dialogue and period setting) finds an audience. The discerning Masterpiece/BBC/ITV period drama fan will stay away. I give a 2 only for Coyle and glimpses of Havers.
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