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I have just finished watching this on BBC four having never read the book by Patrick Hamilton (for which i am suitably ashamed) and knowing little before i slumped down in the comfy armchair.
I have to say i am not a big fan of wartime stories but i found this extremely compelling. The first story was a perfect way to enter into this world, one comprised of shades of brown and unbreakable routines. The initial glamour of Jenny's world drew you to her as it did Bob, her colours lighting up the bland tones of the Midnight Bell. You could understand his growing obsession with her, with anything that spoke of something outside the mundane. She seemed to represent a more accessible version of his books, a different world to admire from afar, even though she existed right in front of him. He could immerse himself in her but never really possess her. Heartbreaking stuff.
The second story was even better, Jenny's fall from grace more of a gentle drooping than a descent. Her eyes showed it all, growing blanker and harder as those around her took advantage. And that's not to say it was all men, her friend was just as guilty of using her beauty for her own ends. Her story was incredibly bleak and i'm sure all too common in the streets of London at this time. But kudos to Zoe Tapper for giving an understated performance, making it all the more heart rending.
Finally we come to my favourite part. It was always going to be, as I am a huge fan of Sally Hawkins work. And i knew from the very beginning that Ella's was going to be the most surprising tale. I was not mistaken. Buffeted by forces she could not (or didn't have the confidence to) control she came off as a more modern and more lovable Fanny Price. Her obvious fear of intimacy and dedication to her morals made her seem almost removed from the harsh realities of the time. But throughout the hour she experienced a number of revelations that broke through the unrealities she had created around her. A fine example being that she could no longer listen to Bob through the wall, she was forced to confront him. And with each one, we saw the pain flicker in her eyes. Sally Hawkins was incredible as always and i found myself wanting to comfort Ella many times throughout the episode.
In conclusion, an excellent drama with fine central performances and suitably downtrodden cinematography. Recommended.
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