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In the 1840s, Cranford is ruled by the ladies. They adore good gossip; and romance and change is in the air, as the unwelcome grasp of the Industrial Revolution rapidly approaches their beloved rural market-town.
Yes, "Mystery" does vary in tone from other works by Dickens but not nearly to this extent. The whole movie plays like a sweaty dream induced by a night of heavy eating and drinking. It utterly lacks the feeling of concrete reality that Dickens somehow evokes even as he spins ludicrous tales.
Not a single character feels like a real person with a real life beyond what appears on screen and a full range of emotions. There's never a hint that the choirmaster runs a choir, or that the lawyer has ever handled a case or that the schoolgirl has any studies.
The very talented Matthew Rhys is wasted on a role with only two notes, hatred and self pity. But it's still the deepest role in the show. None of the other characters has more than one characteristic and many of them have none at all. Oddly, despite this lack of personality (or perhaps because of it) all of the characters are unlikable. There's no one to root for in the story.
To make up for the lack of character, there is mood, lots of mood, hitting you in the face again and again with dream sequences and funny camera angles and music that is supposed to make us fearful in moments that are not scary to anyone older than 5.
The production isn't even technically competent in a way you'd expect of the BBC. Rhys, who is great with accents and can surely do an English one, frequently reverts to his native Welsh. In one scene, they say the Lord's prayer as "Our Father, Who art..." rather than "Which art," which would have been used in Victorian England. It's a miracle a car did not drive through the background in one of the scenes.
The worst adaptation of Dickens I have ever seen.
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