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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
"Parade's End" is a five-part miniseries from England starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Rebecca Hall, Rupert Everett, Miranda Richardson, and Janet McTeer. Based on the novel by Ford Maddox Ford, the script was written by Tom Stoppard.
The story is about the British upper class pre- and during World War I, focusing on Christopher Tietjens (Cumberbatch) and his wife Sylvia (Rebecca Hall). Christopher is an honorable man and extremely repressed, it seems - he won't sleep with the woman he loves (Adelaide Clemens) because he's married, but then he's not sleeping with his wife, who has been unfaithful to him and may or may not have given birth to their son.
Tietjens eventually joins the war office rather than staying in safety because he considers it more honest than what he's being asked to do at his job as a government statistician.
I didn't read the book -- according to the reviews, the role of Sylvia is not supposed to be sympathetic, and Rebecca Hall has been criticized for this. I would submit it's not her fault, it's the director's - I'm sure she could have acted the role any way she was requested to do it.
The director cast young Adelaide Clemens as Tietjens' would-be mistress, though their relationship isn't consummated before or during the war. I have to agree with reviews, for a suffragette, she's pretty vapid.
Benedict Cumberbatch is one of the greatest actors today, and again, as reviews have pointed out, he has now achieved matinée idol status. Originally HBO did not want him in this series because they didn't know who he was; by the time the series was ready to be filmed, they said it had to be with Benedict or they wouldn't do it! Christopher isn't supposed to be a matinée idol - he's described as bulky and unattractive. Cumberbatch gained weight for the role to make himself look a little bigger, though by no means bulky, and he wore inserts in his face to kill those incredibly high cheekbones. He also does something with the jaw area - he had jowls and an unusual way of using his mouth, which has been compared to Edward Fox's and Jeremy Irons' jaw movements. It's part of his characterization, so he actually doesn't look like the dashing Sherlock, between that, his weight, and his lighter hair. He's also lowered his voice, which was pretty low to begin with.
All in all, it's a brilliant performance. He really is a true chameleon. Christopher, however, to Americans anyway, is difficult to understand with his uptightness and his honor, just like one lost patience with Ashley Wilkes and his mixed messages to Scarlett.
And since Cumberbatch is now a matinée idol and if you're a woman, what you're waiting for is some sex and boy, there wasn't much of that, though we did get to see his bare chest when his shirt was open. Wow. We who have seen him do love scenes, such as in The Last Enemy, were left pretty much like Sylvia -- frustrated.
There are some beautiful scenes and some very gritty war scenes, plus lots of symbolism to be had. This series has been compared to Downton Abbey but it is in no way a soap opera. It's much more subtle; it moves slowly, as that way of life did, with everything looking good on the surface but bubbling with scandal and problems underneath.
A great effort that succeeds in part, with some wonderful acting.
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