Review of North & South (2004 BBC series)

    For a couple of years now, I’ve gotten e-mails from Kristie J talking about BBC’s four-episode series North & South, urging me to watch it. As busy as I am, I thanked her for the recommendation — but I didn’t follow up on it.

    Then I found North & South on Netflix and decided to put it in my queue ahead of Tristan & Isolde. It arrived last week, but I didn’t have time to watch it.

    Last week was a very busy week for me, with lots going on at the Capitol and way too much to do at work. I worked every night till 10 or 11 p.m. and was so tired Thursday night after I finished editing our special edition content that I knew I needed to get to bed. I made the mistake of popping North & South into my DVD player.

    I watched the first episode and then had to watch the second. When that was done, it was midnight. But I didn't care. I downloaded the third and fourth from Netflix and watched the whole darned series.

    Guess when I finally made it to bed? 2:30 AM! Yes, that's exactly the right way to make up for stress and lost sleep, isn't it?

    So, now, like Kristie J., I’m telling you that you need to rent this program from Netflix. It’s a desperately romantic series with two people who shouldn’t be together falling in love set amid the struggles of a Victorian industrial town in Northern England.

    Margaret, the middle class educated daughter of a clergyman, is from the south, while John Thornton, who grew up amid poverty, is the master of a cotton mill, where the desperately poor labor all day in conditions that would make you and I cringe. When she first sees Thornton, he’s beating the lights out of a worker who tried to smoke in the mill — something that could start a flash fire and kill all of them.

    Naturally, Margaret’s first impression isn’t a good one, but she is forced to spend time in Thornton's company — and that of his mother — when her father, who is no longer working as a clergyman, takes Thornton on as a pupil. Thornton finds Margaret to be ignorant when it comes to business and to worker/master relations. She sympathizes wholeheartedly with the workers without understanding how hard it is for him to keep the mill operating so that they can have jobs at all.

    The class struggles that help shape this story fascinated me. I delve into those sorts of things in my own writing. I find the daily lives of the average person throughout history far more interesting that the lives of lords and ladies, who have always made up a tiny percentage of human society.

    Though I wanted to strangle Margaret a few times — and I hated Thornton's mother at first — I can to adore all of the characters (apart from his bimbo sister) and cherished the evolution of this love story.

    Thornton's mother is a character I really came to respect as the story unfolded — her loyalty to her son, her willingness to do the right thing even when she abhors Margaret, her sense of honor.

    The script was superb. The acting was perfect. I forgot they were acting, actually. It all seemed very real to me. The sets were very interesting — how they reconstructed the machinery of a cotton mill I can’t say, but it fascinated me.

    The kissing scene at the end of the series ranks right up there among the best and most fulfilling kissing scenes every. Yes, I cried — in part because I know I’ll never kiss Richard Armitage myself. (That’s patently unfair, if you ask me.)

    Yesterday, I ordered a copy from Amazon, because I know I'm going to want to watch this again (like right now). This time, I want to watch it more slowly and watch it when I’m actually awake. The series has 9 out of 10 stars on IMDB, which is incredibly high for any film.

    So here’s my official recommendation for you. I regret not listening to Kristie sooner. After all, I know she has impeccable taste. She’s told everyone on the planet about Ride the Fire, hasn't she?

    What other movie kisses can you think of that just stole your breath away? One that comes to my mind is the kiss between Lancelot (Richard Gere) and Guinevere (Julia Ormond) in First Knight. That was intense!

    I just popped back to add these:

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