image from selina.yichi.org
It was quite an accident when I discovered a period drama of a gem. I was researching for British period dramas and was actually on a marathon watching several Jane Austen film and TV adaptations when I came across “North and South.” Viewers were singing praises about it and decided to take the plunge. And wow! I’m glad I did.
Based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s Victorian novel, the series has both political and social overtones. It explores England’s industrial and “gritty” North and the agricultural and cultured South. The heroine (Margaret Hale) and her family moved from the Southern town of Helstone to the Northern industrial town of Milton. Margaret longs for her life in the South and detests Northern ways. She also develops an aversion to the young cotton mill owner, John Thornton, because she witnessed an encounter between Mr. Thornton and one of his employees that puts him in a bad light, at least in Margaret’s eyes. On the other hand, John is besotted with Margaret because of her spirited, outspoken and sometimes haughty demeanor. Matters between the two worsen when different issues were thrown in their paths. Amidst the rather “bleak and dark” backdrop, these two people from entirely different backgrounds struggle through first impressions and misunderstandings and ultimately, realize where the other person is coming from. And yes, they do discover a whole lot more.
So, what is addicting about this series? What has made me into a raving lunatic, swooning fan, and obsessed follower?
Richard Armitage as the brooding John Thornton
Daniela Denby-Ashe as Margaret Hale
Sandy Welch‘s screenplay is just as awesome and Brian Percival‘s direction is seamless. The supporting cast was also good in their performances. But I would rather focus on the two actors for breathing life into their characters by way of their brilliant characterizations. Daniela Denby-Ashe who portrayed the young, outspoken and caring Margaret Hale was delightful. However, it was the compelling presence of the relatively unknown Richard Armitage which glued me to my computer screen and endure long hours of streaming from Youtube just to watch this series. His portrayal of the brooding John Thorton was absolutely riveting! He was able to convey his feelings even with subtle facial expressions and body language. And the EYES, the EYES! His eyes were so expressive – all that brooding and smoldering! He just smoldered, my goodness! Oh, I couldn’t help but wish I am Margaret, the object of his affection. 😉
Other aspects of the production were also outstanding, particularly, the music and cinematography. The music was haunting enough, I was blown away by the musical scores. The cinematography, on the other hand, while it focuses more on the bleak and dirty industrial setting gives it more realism.
I understand now why it has had a cult-like following after it has been aired and why it continues to draw newbie fans, such as myself, even after 6 years. North and South is a treasure! It is now one of my all-time favorites. I have seen the series a week ago but I can’t seem to stop talking, thinking and obsessing about it. I want to get a DVD really bad but I think I have to wait for someone in the US to buy it for me. Though I have recently acquired an ebook edition of the novel, I would certainly love to have my own hard copy of the book. And maybe one day, I’ll write something about the novel itself. In the meantime, I just have to start reading it.
John and Margaret
Credits: Photos from richardarmitageonline.com and jrinla.com