Am a U.S.viewer, watching Series 1 on an all-region DVD player. I ordered this series as something my elderly mother might enjoy and have become engrossed myself. Sounding initially like a British variant on LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE, CANDLEFORD turns out to be a rich spectacle which discovers complexities in itself after pleasant but lightweight opening installments and by episode 4 becomes something altogether finer (I've seen only 1-7 so far). I think it not entirely accidental that this same fourth episode engineers a lengthy hiatus for LARK SPUR's most egregious blemish, the already oft-slammed Dawn French as the hamlet's debtor-reprobate. French isn't distractingly familiar in the U.S. but her lazy anachronistic performance, straight out of the classic "Coarse Acting" handbook, is an irritant just the same. Might as well note the other flaws that persist, noted in the more critical IMDb critiques: the usual over-explicit music; some wobbly continuity from one episode to the next (particularly notable in the lack of carryover after the milliner-sisters' traumatic reunion with their father); the disregard for the 18 mile separation of communities so forcefully laid-out in episode 1 and subsequently ignored; and, yes, the absence of squalor. Can't comment on the adaptation's disregard for the source-book since I haven't read it.
But lordy, how much else excels! The writing, encompassing parlor-protocol and pub-chatter, has Dickensian swagger. If LARK SPUR's creators disembarked from the original text, they found their independent stride within a few traversals of their 20-or-so characters. Note how the Welsh postman, an evangelical stereotype and already tiresome within the first hour, in Episode 5 has a spiritual crisis, conveyed in a layman-sermon whose earnestness emits a skittering undertone of near-madness (wonderfully performed by Mark Heap). The porcelain lady-of-the-manor of Eps. 1-2 by 6-7 emerges as a tragic heroine. Twister, Lark Spur's aged comic layabout and scrounger, in Episode 6 has recall of a long-dead sister he imagines come back to haunt him in scenes as rapturously sad and true to senescent remorse as any great tragic work (Karl Johnson, an actor I've never noted before, is extraordinary). More than simply showcasing the series' mostly wonderful cast, the collective of directors grows increasingly muscular in their framing of scenes as LARK SPUR progresses: a complex moment in Ep. 7, in which the squire's wife watches her husband across the street and submits to the goading of shopwomen she dislikes, imagining the worst, is shot with an economic forcefulness that moots distinctions between TV and cinematic filming. Nothing "twee" about craft of that order-- nor about the series itself, once past its establishing episodes.
Yet subtleties noted here are secondary to something LARK SPUR has in fixed place from the start: Julia Sawalha's post-mistress, and her rapport with lifetime friend and village squire Ben Miles, an attenuated near-romance that in abstract sounds an embarrassment-- two terrific actors who appear to realize they have found gorgeous grown-up roles in the unlikeliest of projects, and like the rest of the production's cast/crew, perform as if BBC's calculations about "Sunday night programing" wholly underestimated their work. I cannot push these Reg. 2 programs at friends, who haven't the equipment to play them, and so I can only enthuse here. This is beautiful serial television.
15 out of 18 found this helpful.
Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote!