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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
It's been too long since we've seen this fine miniseries. From my
recollection, this is a wonderful story of an ideal father and an ideal
son together versus the world. The wife/mother is absent, I don't
recall why. When son is about 12 years old, father and son make some
promises to each other about how they are to cope with life henceforth:
first and foremost, "no secrets:" their lives will be open books to
each other. They are common folk, but father devotes his life to
enabling the boy to become all he can be. He works like a dog to send
his son to a good school. Son studies hard, flourishes, and in due
course embarks upon a hard-earned career as a sensitive and
compassionate physician. Not to indulge in spoilers, but among the
ethical issues this story eventually tackles in due course, not
melodramatically yet very poignantly, is euthanasia.
Several years ago, I pleaded here that the British miniseries "To serve them all my days" would be released on video; and whadya know, it has recently come to pass. God answers prayers. Dare I hope to get lucky twice?
At almost=89, I cannot even recall whether I ever saw the H.B. Warner version of this classic father/son tale, but, belatedly, deaf and sans captions as well, I have stumbled onto this "modern" retelling, and I can say that I believe this has to be one "for the books," as in an authentic "classic." Richard Pasco's performance is MORE than "Oscar"-worthy, down to his aged makeup and his convincing senility, and the denouement is nothing short of "moving" and "cathartic," the raison-d'etre of drama and theater and film and telly, no? It surpasses mere sex, into the realm of simple humanity, a realm few if any manage to enter so tellingly. The rest is the subtlest and best of Brit mummery of the recent past, mature and assured and quietly assertive. Let the mobs celebrate the explosions and the digitally created images, I, for one, prefer these quiet meditations on the human condition, which is timeless, unless the idiots manage to blow ALL of us into vapor and not even dust.
An undeniable fault of the miniseries format is the great temptation to
go on and on without specific direction. Standard television provides
the restriction of putting forth important events each episode, and
cinema must contain a reasonable beginning, middle and end.
Consequently, a miniseries often feels like a film with absolutely no
benefit of judicial editing.
The story set-up is certainly arresting. The character of Stephen Sorrell (Richard Pasco) is a focused one, quickly drawing you in with his drive and love for his son, Kit (Paul Critchley). Critchley has little to do in this role, but fortunately shares a good resemblance to his character's older counterpart, played by Peter Chelsom. You can hardly help but be interested by Sorrell's early endeavors, frustrating though they may be.
As on-edge as the early events of this story are, I found myself longing for their return by around about the end of the forth episode. Because, honestly, the 'Sorrell' bits are of far more dramatic interest than the 'Son' bits. That's not strictly the fault of Peter Chelsom. He does his best, though I never thought of him as more than a passable actor (He left acting for a much more successful career as director in the 90s). No, the fault is really in the writing, whether it be the source material or the adaptation, I can't say. Either way, interest certainly fades. As for Richard Pasco, regardless of his diminishing screen time throughout the series, he is far and above the best reason to watch "Sorrell and Son". His stunning performance, along with several grand supporting turns by John Shrapnel and others make this an entertaining watch at the least.
For all the early promise, however, the story seems to degenerate into something along the lines of 'stuff happening'. It's a pleasant sort of stuff, but really not too clever. Still, give the first three episodes a watch, and see how you like it from there. You just might get more out of the final three episodes than I did.
RATING: 7.0 out of 10
I was actually looking for the 1927 film adaptation starring H.B.Warner
when I ran into this version. And it raised to my expectations, for it
is very faithful to the book, which is a point I always insist that
movies based on literary works should fulfill.
A superb performance by Richard Pasco is actually what attracts you to this version. He very well captured the picture I had for Captain Sorrell in mind, while reading the book, from his middle-age years to his senility, and how he suffered both physically and emotionally to provide for his son, after his wife deserted them, trying to keep his dignity, self respect and his English gentleman manners in the process. I'm sure if this was a movie instead of a TV series, Pasco would have earned an Oscar nomination. The rest of the cast gave so good performances that you won't feel disappointed with any of them.
A very good adaptation.. you won't regret watching it. (9/10)
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