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Sunday, December 30, 2007:
"North and South" (2005) - movie review
Studio: BBC Warner
DVD Release Date: November 15, 2005
Run Time: 233 minutes

As the daughter of a middle-class parson, Margaret Hale has enjoyed a privileged upbringing in rural southern England. But when her father uproots the family, she is forced to a new life in Milton - a northern mill town in the throes of the industrial revolution.

Margaret is shocked by her new surroundings. Appalled by the dirt, noise and gruffness of the people of Milton, she saves her greatest contempt for the mill-owners. When John Thornton, charismatic proprietor of Marlborough Mills, becomes a "pupil" of her father, she makes her distaste for this vulgar and uneducated new class abundantly clear.

Over time, Margaret's attitude towards the mill workers begins to change and she joins their workplace struggles against poverty and disease. But will she ever change her view of their employers - in particular, one who has secretly become her admirer?

As I've traveled through blogland the last several weeks, I've seen a lot of talk about this series - Dev, KristieJ, Sula - and I was immediately intrigued. Having loved the infamous BBC version of "Pride and Prejudice" with Colin Firth, (and later the version with Kiera Knightly), I just had to watch this. So I put it at the top of my Netflix queue.

Only, the plan I'm signed up for is one DVD at a time, and well, it's a 2-disc series. Argh! When I received it on Thursday, I knew I couldn't watch it the first disc, then wait several days for part 2. So I did what any sensible person would do: I went to Blockbuster Friday evening after work to rent the entire series.

Only Blockbuster didn't have it - damn them. I decided to keep looking, since my plans for the weekend included indulging in this movie at least once. So I tried Wal-Mart, knowing better but being lazy since it's close to my house. Well, no go. Not surprised by this. So I then drove over to Borders. Went upstairs to the DVD section and headed for the computer to look it up. Yep, there it was - "North and South", in: British Television, Drama. Most Likely In Store. Yes! Headed over to the British t.v. section under "N". No "North & South" DVD. Went back to computer, tried to print store location. Printer error. Memorized "British television: Drama". Headed back to section. NO DVD. Looked in M, O, A, Z...the whole entire British television section. Including musicals. Nada. Once again headed back to computer, why I don't know but obviously I must have read something wrong. "BRITISH TELEVSION: DRAMA. MOST LIKELY IN STORE. Wanted to cry. Okay, not really, but maybe stamp my foot. Decided to go to the customer service desk to see if another Borders store had it, and as I turned around and glanced at the general Drama section, there it was! Staring right at me, like it was waiting for me to find it. YES! Obsessed much? Maybe, but hey, I got the DVD, so at this point, what do I care?

And let me tell you straightaway, it was well, WELL worth the aggravation I went through to get the whole series. Those of you who've seen it will not be surprised by this. Those of you who haven't seen it should take this opportunity to get your hands on a copy as soon as humanly possible.

As Dev, mentioned, it is visually stunning, from the first when we see Margaret at her home in rural England, to the vividness of the "snowy" cotton mills and grimy living conditions in Milton. I loved way the characters articulated, their accents, their mannerisms, which were so suited for the characters they played. It's amazing how significant a handshake or a look can convey so much, and that's one of the reasons this movie is so wonderful. Subtle and beautifully romantic.
For the most part, I liked Margaret Hale right from the start. She is not afraid to speak her mind, and though the move to Milton is not something she is looking forward to, especially once she realizes just how different it is from her home in southern England, she nevertheless accepts her new circumstances and does what she must, rather than wallowing in self-pity and throwing tantrums. Margaret is not afraid to jump in and get her hands dirty. In fact she very much seems like the type of young woman who needs to have a purpose, one with meaning.
There are times when she blunders through the proper etiquette, never meaning to give the wrong impression, and accepts when she is wrong about things. Occasionally she came across as a little condescending and "full of airs", but I don't think it's done with the belief that she is better than anyone else. She just thinks she's right based on what she knows. And she's a caring person, one who feels compassion for others. She goes out of her way to befriend Bessie Higgins, a mill worker who is sick from poor working conditions, and makes regular visits to her family's home. One thing about Margaret is she's not afraid to work at something, or to reach out to people. I really liked that about her. She is also a very strong person, experiencing the tragedy of losing a loved one more than once, and she carries on and does what she must. She is definitely a person others can lean on and Margaret never feels that this is a burden she must endure. I admired her strength.
John Thornton took a bit longer to warm up to. When we first meet him, he is overseeing the workers in his mill, and he comes across as cold and harsh. When Margaret first meets him, he is beating one of his employees, and he seems cruel and unforgiving, but soon thereafter we get to see John with his family, and listen to him as he meets with other mill owners, and you begin to realize just how conscientious and caring a person he is. He has no wish to endanger his employees, or to participate in risky ventures that may cause him to lose the mill. We also learn that just because he is a master and owner of Marlborough Mill, it doesn't mean he is made of money, despite how it may appear to those who work for him. One of the biggest revelations comes later, when Nicholas and John realize just how the other side actually lives, and this is when the two sides slowly begin to work together to resolve their differences.
Once John becomes Mr. Hale's pupil, he and Margaret cross paths more regularly, and while he starts to develop romantic feelings for her, she cannot accept that he is anything other than the horrifying tyrant she saw that first day. John is unsure of himself when it comes to Margaret, believing that a woman like her could never have him, and I found that to be so endearing. John really is an honorable man, someone who puts the needs of his family before his own, and someone who works twice as hard as any of his employees. [And was it just me, or did anyone else find that he reminded them of Hugh Jackman from "Kate and Leopold" in this movie? I couldn't get past that. Not that I'm complaining mind you, because I find both Hugh and Richard Armitage to be very attractive men. And near the end, when John Thornton smiles (something his character rarely does), he was like a cross between Hugh and Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter)].
Before I continue, I cannot forget to mention Bessie's father Nicholas (who actually seems more like an older brother than her father) who befriends Margaret and her family, and later, Mr. Thornton. Like Dev, I also had a bit of a crush on him - I mean who wouldn't after the way he tries to help his fellow co-workers by fighting for a better life for them all, and later, when he takes in 6 orphan children and he swallows his pride to provide for them. Nicholas is rather heroic in his own passionate, determined way. I liked his character a lot.
Back to John and Margaret. Eventually, Margaret begins to see John Thornton for the man he truly is, and realizes that her life in Milton is the life she was meant to have all along, rather than one of idle pursuits. She lets go of the dreams from the past, and her previous perceptions of John and the mill, and begins to plan a new life, one with purpose. And that life happens to include John, if he will still have her. Oh let me just say those scenes at the train station are so, so wonderful, and I found myself re-winding a few times just so I could watch it, and fall in love, all over again.
I cannot conclude a review of this movie without mentioning that there are several similarities to "Pride & Prejudice" by Jane Austen. Written by Elizabeth Gaskell and first published in 1854-5, it was released more than 40 years after Austen's novel. And to be honest, there does seem to be both pride and prejudice in this rendition, and who knows, maybe it was written as a tribute to the classic. But though there are similarities, it is a stand-alone piece of work and really rather wonderful in its own way. I cannot recommend it enough. Nor can I watch it enough. I plan on doing so again later today. What a great way to spend a chilly and gloomy Sunday afternoon....

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  1. I'm smiling, laughing, clapping at your wonderful review!!
    And I could feel the NEED to get this series building as you kept getting stumped. The same thing happens to me. I want something and then when a stumbling block gets in the way, the want becomes desire and the then becomes urge and then the urge becomes NEED and it get's hold of you and won't let go until - at last - aahhhhhhhh - satisfaction. And then you have a cigarette after.
    Joking abou that last sentence there. But it does almost remind you of something else doesn't it?
    I am SO happy that you loved this as much as we all have so far.
    You did a wonderful job conveying the essence of it!
    Welcome to The Crusade Little Warrior.

  2. I'm gushing here. I'm so glad you loved it!!! I really enjoyed your review ~ it was like watching N&S all over again. So, did you have any favorite parts? Mine were: 1) at the end of episode one when you see the cotton floating through the air and Margaret is talking about how she has seen hell and it is white ~ snow white, then you see John emerging through the cotton all alone (ahhh); 2) When Margaret is leaving Milton and she has just said her goodbyes to the Thortons and you see John watching her leave and he keeps saying "Look back at me" (ahhh); 3) the Train Scene (ahhhh).

  3. Another favourite scene - when he whispers with his little half smile "it was her brother"
    And I loved the conversation between Thornton and Higgins when Thornton says "You you brought your brains to work after all." And Higgins replys "Well - I couldn't leave them all at home"
    You really see the comradarie grow between the two of them at the remembered conversation from before. And - I adore Higgins too. Upon first viewing - it's all about RA for me, but when you watch it more often, you start noticing the subtleties - and the other characters. And the hair on John's arm when his sleeves are rolled up *g*
    And I'm curious *g* - did you buy this or rent it from Blockbuster?

  4. Kristie, you're right, the more I couldnt' find it, the more I just HAD to have it. And I'm proud to be a part of such an awesome project as the "North & South" lovefest.

    Dev, fave parts? When John and Margaret shake hands that first time and their hands linger. When John is telling his mother how he doesn't think Margaret will have him - he's so vulnerable that it melts my heart. The whole scene when the meet up at the train station at the end. And of course when John is not wearing a cravat - sigh. There are really so many great scenes, aren't there?

    Kristie, I got the 1st disc Thursday (rented it) and Friday went to Borders and bought the movie, so I own this lovely piece of romantic drama.

  5. Okay, I haven't noticed the hair on John's arms. Guess I'll have to watch it again.

  6. Hey. Saw your comment on my blog. Luciano is actually a print book not ebook. FAR made a mistake I'm waiting for them to fix it :)

  7. It took me longer to warm up to Margaret than John, but perhaps that's b/c of the hotness. I described him to my sister and mom as a more rough around the edges (and hotter IMO) Hugh Jackman, so it's funny you mentioned it.

    Good review. It's definitely a great way to while away a rainy day. Must buy my own copy.

  8. I have a thing for John's neck in the movie. He is all stiff and buttoned up with his cravat, never smiling. But then at the end, we see his lovely neck no cravat and he is smiling.
    One of my favorite scene is the party where he shakes a female guest's hand and it is gloved. But when he comes to Margaret, she has no glove and he holds he hands for a long time. Sigh.

  9. Dev, John has very sexy arms, and hands. I just love his hands.

    Devon, there were moments that I didn't always like Margaret, but she redeemed herself by the end. And yes, watching it the 2nd time around was just as wonderful.

    Katiiebabs, I loved how masculine he looked without his cravat. And when he took Margaret's hand, I held my breath. Just lovely.

    And the music, I cannot forget to mention the music. It went so perfectly with the film.

    Btw, I know some of you aren't big fans of Lifetimetv, but Michelle Buonfiglio is all about Richard Armitage today:

  10. Oh Stacy, I had to post over at Michelle's blog. She acts like she takes full credit for the North and South bonanza and Richard. Well I squashed that in the bud.
    Oh man, will I become a blogging post soon because I called her out on it? This is too funny since people think I am too nice!!

    I am also reading North & South, which I recommend you get your hands on. So good and shows a very different John and Margaret from the movie. Margaret's parents still act like dodos in the book.

  11. Stace - I ordered my copy of North & South from Amazon (I think Lisa K. was the first person I heard talk about it on Squawk Radio, but she probably got it from Kristie). But it's come up alot in the past few months (I read more about it over at Devonna's blog), so I decided to order it. Anyway, I'm planning to dive in on New Year's Day. Given your review, I can hardly wait!

  12. Katie, it was nice to see you over at Michelle's place. I know others at her blog have been talking about "N&S" for awhile, but it never sunk in until you, Kristie, Sula & Dev raved about it so much, so I give you guys credit for opening my eyes Richard Armitage. Now I want to see "Robin Hood", so I Netflixed it.

    MK, I hope you enjoy it. There's nothing like that first time *g*

  13. Hey Stacy, you don't think I was too bitchy over at Michelle's? I hope I wasn't but honestly without Kristie and Sula I would have never known about the movie, the book and the yummy Richard A.
    Just wait till you start watching Robin Hood!! Richard is so nasty and evil but so sexy, even with the eyeliner they make him wear. Plus he wears leather! And his love for Marian is so heartbreaking!

  14. LOVED this movie/series! Kristie's still P.O.ed at me because I have failed to put up a raving review. I just haven't had the time. And now it's been awhile since I've seen it....guess I'll just HAVE to watch it all over again so I can write the review it deserves! ;)

    I my favorite scene is when Margaret is riding away in the carriage and he's demanding she look at him. It kills me. LOVE it.

  15. Mollie: *laughing* you silly girl *g* I'm not p.o. I'm thrilled to pieces that you've watched it. I think everyone who sees it loves it - but it must be a predestined gene or something 'cause for some of us it's more than just loving *g* it's almost a condition that COMPELLS us to watch it over and over and over. A side effect of that condition is seeing others who have the same predestined gene, once they've been exposed, love seeing others talk about it too *g*. It's like a fever in the blood or something.
    And FWIW we were going to start The Crusade earlier but put it off due to the American Thanksgiving we put if off a few weeks - so *laughing* we understand busy times. I'm just thrilled to pieces (another side effect) that you've even seen it.
    And MaryKate - now you are on our radar too *sly wink*. It will be interesting to see if you too have that hidden gene.

  16. Katie, you were just enthusiastic over the movie and excited about others watching it. Nothing wrong with that.

    Mollie, you have been busy, so it's good to see you out and about. I love that scene too :)

  17. OK, I just watched the first two episodes. I'm too pooped to watch the second half, but I think that's good because I can spend tomorrow at work thinking about it.

    Kristie, I will say this, you and Katie were absolutely right, Richard Armitage is HAWT!

  18. Oh! And Katie, I know you didn't ask me, but no way were you too bitchy at Michelle's place. Stacy can tell you I bitch at Michelle all the time.

    She's a good friend, but I pick on her frequently. She's tough, she can take it. ;OP

    I hope you'll come back, I know her place isn't for everyone, but she does pull in some great authors and the readers who hang there know their romance. Which I appreciate.

    Anyway, come by anytime -- the more the merrier.

  19. Mary Kate, wait till you see the final "Train Scene" between John and Margaret. The most romantic scene I have ever watched in a movie!
    I must have watched it 50 times on You Tube. :)
    I had stopped by once before to read her the interview with JR Ward, but now I have signed up so I maybe stopping by more often.
    ACK my bloggin addiction keeps growing!!!! help...

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