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Twenty years after taking an acrimonious leave of his family and friends in order to join the Roman church, Monsignor Renard returns to his home village as parish priest. World War Two is well under way, and Nazi occupation is imminent. In addition to reassuring the locals, Renard must also attempt to repair his relationship with estranged brother Yves, who resents his sibling having escaped the responsibility of running the family business. Written by
Monsignor Renard's only flaw was how abruptly it ended, the show really did feel incomplete and cried out for another series at least. And it probably would have done if it hadn't fallen victim to costs, with location shooting being expensive and the financial crisis at the time, and if John Thaw hadn't died so ultimely two years later. Its cancellation was nothing to do with lack of quality, if remembered correctly from what I read about it it was a ratings success and those who've seen and remember it do so fondly. It is a shame really because Monsignor Renard was a great series; it was very well-made with splendid locations(the scenery is the equal of that in A Year in Provence, another John Thaw gem and also shot in France) and the photography was professional and allowed us to enjoy it. The music was mostly understated while having some searing and suspenseful without being obvious. Monsignor Renard was intelligently scripted and is very thought-provoking; characterisation-wise it doesn't quite avoid stereotypes but the characters are interesting at least and while the Germans are more sympathetic than the French here Monsignor Renard doesn't try to be too one-sided. With the story there was a sense of the uneasiness and tension of the time but also how good the leadership was between the character and there is always room for a good-natured and warm-hearted approach, both of which Monsignor Renard has. The cast play their parts beautifully with the accents more than convincing. Cheryl Campbell, Andrew McCulloch and Dominic Monaghan are great but acting honours do belong to John Thaw in a role that is not quite among his best work(Morse, Kavanagh, The Sweeney, Goodnight Mister Tom) but stands out favourably among his latter work. He is classy and commanding and communicates a lot and sometimes just with his face and eyes. All in all, a great series that deserved a stronger resolution and better chance than what it got. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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