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Story is set against the backdrop of WWI and follows Christopher Tietjens, a top civil servant from a background of wealth and privilege, whose marriage flounders almost as soon as it begins. He falls in love with another woman, but he remains honorable for some considerable time to Sylvia who has several affairs. On top of this, Chris is dealing with shell shock and partial memory loss that he endures during the war.Written by
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Parade's End is Tom Stoppard's new adaption of Ford Madox Ford's First World War novel. One knew it was going to be good as soon as one noticed that the novelist's first and last name were the same – a sure sign of a serious and thoughtful writer.
The series stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Christopher Tietjens – a tightly wound, deeply honourable English gentlemen with an annoying penchant for not having sex with beautiful women who want to have sex with him. They pursue him, they flirt with him, they sometimes get down on their knees and beg him, but old Christopher doesn't want to know. He is far too busy being tightly wound and deeply honourable.
Directly by Susannah White, Parade's End is BBC costume drama at its most costumy, with plenty of expensive tweed, pinched in waistlines, and heaving powdered cleavage.
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Cumberbatch must have watched many thousands of hours of Edward Fox movies, as he seems to have perfectly mastered Fox's uniquely contorted lower facial expression – that of pressing one's lips together and using one's cheek muscles to somehow force one's down-turned mouth painfully southwards towards the chin.
Rebecca Hall, (daughter of Sir Peter) plays Tietjens' beautiful but sex-starved socialite wife, who on one occasion strips naked in front of her husband, only to be told that he can't bear to turn away from the wall and look at her. On another occasion the poor woman is so desperate for intercourse that she jumps into a taxi in London, drives hundreds of miles to where he is fighting in France, and practically throws herself on top of him in the trenches. Meanwhile, Christopher's sagging mouth slides further and further down his face as he daydreams about his beautiful suffragette admirer Valentine (Adelaide Clemens), and what it might be like to not have sex with her again when he returns home to Blighty.
Clearly Parade's End is intelligent, beautifully crafted drama, without the TV soap-like qualities of the more mainstream Downton Abbey, and Benedict Cumberbatch is destined to become one of our finest serious actors. That is, of course, if he manages to avoid being cast as Doctor Who.
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