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 ... See full summary »
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 ... See full summary »
Yorkshire in the 1880's: Joe Skinner marries Lily Whitmore, the woman he has long admired, to give a name to her illegitimate child by Lionel Fillmore, the opportunistic son of an ... See full summary »
Tide of Life follows the fortunes of young housekeeper, Emily Kennedy, as she learns about relationships with three very different men. Forced from home of her first employer, Sep McGilby ... See full summary »
Wealthy estate owner sir Michael Audley willingly marries a gold-digger, his only daughter Alicia's governess Lucy née Gray. Sir Michael's dashing, in-living orphaned nephew Robert 'Bob' ... See full summary »
Betsan Morris Evans
Based on a little known 1848 novel by Anne Bronte, Tara Fitzgerald stars as an enigmatic young woman who moves to 19th Century Yorkshire with a young son. Distancing herself from everyone ... See full summary »
Lawyer Wakem takes away the mill on the river Floss from Edward Tulliver, whose ancestors owned it for 300 years, and becomes the worst enemy of Tulliver's family. When Edward's daughter, ... See full summary »
I should preface my remarks by saying that I've not read the source material (Anthony Powell's twelve semi-autobiographical novels) so I can't comment on that aspect of the story. My frustration with the protagonist Nick Jenkins passivity no doubt reflects Powell's original creation. I thought that James Purefoy did a credible job portraying Jenkins and it was a relief to see him take a break from the usual scenery chewing, sneering and smirking he so often exhibits in his period film performances. To the contrary -- he's understated and passive to the point of bewilderment which, I presume, was Powell's intention.
Much of the rest of the cast is excellent (and any frequent viewer of British period films will recognize many fine character actors), although the characters themselves are often inexplicably unappealing. Throughout it all, Jenkins stays collegial, if not congenial, with every one of them, no matter how despicable they might be. That struck me as unbelievable, but again -- I suspect that Powell was using Jenkins as a personification of the British trait of "getting on with people". Fair enough.
What, then, is my objection to "A Dance to the Music of Time"? They are three, two of which have to do with the structure of the story. First, the adaptation feels forced and is hugely uneven. You always know things are going badly in a film when characters employ declamation to introduce themselves. "Why hello, young Winston Churchill! You may not remember me, but I'm the Prince of Wales." (I just made that up for effect, but it reflects the tin-eared dialogue often employed in the miniseries when it needs to Tell Us Something.) Yes, it's madness to try to abridge 12 novels down to seven hours on film, but that decision largely doomed the miniseries' credibility.
Second, the further along the film goes, the less focus it has. It wanders off into one utterly pointless subplot after another, trying to express the passage of time and zeitgeists along the way. No sale. It feels forced and perfunctory.
Finally, due to the timeframe of the film (1920s through '60s), characters must age. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, James Purefoy is one of the very few who is replaced with a different (and older) actor, and one who looks nothing like him. This requires more awkward exposition ("Hello, Bill. You may not remember me, but I'm Nicholas Jenkins, even though I look nothing like the Nick Jenkins you knew in Episode Three.") Why was this done? Widmerpool and most of the other actors progressively age (to varying degrees of believability), but just swapping out the protagonist for a different actor torpedoes the film's credibility all the more. Inexplicably, Miranda Richardson not only portrays the same character throughout, she does not age one year. Absurd.
Ultimately, this film left me scratching and shaking my head. Perhaps the books bring something more to the story, but the film felt like a contrived string of events both banal and pseudo-historic, with a hollow man at the center. We never care about any of the characters, nor do we see anything of substance inside of the protagonist. He's a cypher, an "everyman" and ultimately a bore to follow for seven hours.
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