Snug: The Obsessed Fan's Guide to Period Dramas
I cannot believe that I have not made this post sooner. I mean, I love period dramas. Like, love period dramas. I don’t just watch them on and off, I daydream about being in them. I find myself talking like the characters afterwards. I once made my Dad stop the car on the Yorkshire moors so I could just run around for a bit in the vein of Cathy Earnshaw. I make Victorian meat pies. I think men in waistcoats are just about the best thing ever. I have a Victorian travelling cloak on a mannequin in my bedroom. I know that it’s a bit weird but I’ve embraced it! Every time I’m feeling either incredibly happy or incredibly sad, I’ll turn to something on this list. I’ve ranked them from 10-1, although some of the titles are so close I’d consider them equally wonderful. If you think there’s an unusual amount of Romola Garai on the list; it’s not a coincidence. She’s an absolute dream in a bonnet.
Jane Eyre (2006)
This version of Jane Eyre is just great. Ruth Wilson is a perfect Jane: self-deprecating, strangely beautiful and fiercely empowering. I believe her as Jane. The characters have real life and the Yorkshire backdrop is just as ethereal and intimidating as it can be in reality. The cinematography is delicate and poignant. The scene with the poor orphan girls cracking through ice to wash their face is one that sticks with me!
Ok, I know this is a very recent edition and some would call it a ‘period drama soap’, but do you know what, a ‘period drama soap’ sounds like BEST THING EVER! The characters are really fun and engaging, especially Mr. Crabbe and Mr. S himself. Sure, it is a bit sensational at times, but the period it’s set in sees the rise of the Suffragette movement and the establishment of shopping as we know it today. It’s also a little known fact that my future pigs are going to be named after Mr. Selfridge characters, namely Miss. Mardle and Miss. Calthorpe. It’s on Netflix, so binge watch away!
North & South (2004)
If you weren’t a fan of Richard Armitage before, you will be after this. He’s brooding and mysterious and a bit of an arse at the beginning. Sort of like a Northern Mr. Darcy. But then Mr. Thornton, a cotton mill owner from Yorkshire, is given a new perspective on his exploitative work practices by Margaret Hale; a Southerner adjusting to life in an industrial town. It’s about that classic North/South divide shot with a profound juxtaposition between the fancy ladies’ gown of the rich and the life-threatening conditions of those working the mill.
When I’m old and spend my days lunching and gossiping, I imagine it’ll be a lot like Cranford. Set near Cheshire in the early 1840’s, Cranford is full of either single or widowed middle-class women with too much time on their hands and a very high sense of propriety. It stars some absolute stunners of British television, including Judi Dench and Imelda Staunton, who are quite simply flabbergasted and downright insulted when two men move into the village. It’s hilarious and strangely poignant at times. Highlights include Mrs. Forrester who loves her cow so much that she’s hysterical when poor Bessie goes missing.
Daniel Deronda (2002)
Aaaaaaan here’s where Romola first pops up. I was searching for something to watch on Netflix one night and after a lot of swiping, came across this. It’s amazing. Romola is amazing. High Bonneville is amazing. The story line is amazing. Gwendolen Harleth is a pretty but immature young lady who jumps into a marriage with the rich but ohmygosh so sadistically horrible Henleigh Grandcourt, who is manipulative and cruel and just the worst. Running through the story is the heartbreaking tale of High Dancy, who is discovering his Jewish heritage and the prejudice and pain that comes along with it. So worth a watch.
Lady Chatterly’s Lover (2015)
Ok, brace yourselves, if you’re more into period dramas than chick lit, this version of Lady Chatterly’s Lover is about to be your Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s got a great story line. The characters are beautiful and flawed. The woods and wildfowl capture the essence of the country so perfectly I want to jump into the screen. And a very minor, minor point, is that Richard Madden plays the handsome but plain-spoken Oliver Mellors and he is excellent (nothing to do with his physique and general attraction nope nope nope). Lady Chatterly’s husband returns from the war a broken man, and as she comes to terms with his physical disability, she doffs the restraints of Post-Victorian society to seek intimacy with a man ‘far below her station’. It’s great. Mmmmmhmmm.
The Crimson Petal and the White
Not based on a Victorian novel, but drawing heavily on Victorian accounts of women’s mental health, prostitution and the rise of industrial wealth, this show sees Romola Garai play Sugar, a prostitute who spends her spare hours writing about all the different ways she could murder and maim her often vulgar male customers. An encounter with William Rackham (Chris O’Dowd), sees her entwined within his family life, particularly his feeble wife who suffers from ‘hysteria’. It’s shocking and brutal; exposing the often overlooked and suppressed parts of Victoria women’s lives, both rich and poor. It’s an absolute stunner of a drama.
Pride and Prejudice (2005)
I know, I know, before you say anything, I didn’t include the 90’s Pride and Prejudice for a reason. Shoot me down, but I actually prefer this version for so many reasons. I saw this in the cinema aged 14 and it signifies the start of a lifelong obsession for Austen, Georgian history and anything at all that involves bonnets and breeches. The cinematography is sublime. The dappled sunlight, Lizzie’s stomps past oak trees, noisy geese landing on a lake, the excitement of a ball, the morning mist over fields – this film speaks to my soul. The sisterhood between the Bennet girls and their poor, hysterical mother is played out beautifully (it’s the first time I realised that pinching your cheeks gives them a rosy hue). The soundtrack is on a loop in my head and I just love it, love it, love it.
Here she is for the last time! Emma is my favourite Austen book and it makes absolute sense for it to be my favourite adaptation too. Romola (we’re definitely on first name terms now) is the perfect Emma. She’s endearing and annoying and obnoxious and snobby, but I don’t hate her. I just can’t. Emma meddles with the lives of those living in Highbury, largely out of boredom over anything else. The delicate and loving relationship between her and her Paps (Michael Gambon) is so relatable and that scene on Box Hill with the picnic *cringe alert* is toe-curling. Hooray for Romola Garai!
Lost in Austen
Lost in Austen is the daydream that I play out in my head most mornings during the commute. If you’re an Austen fan, this mini-series is just a dream. Imagine that you walk into your bathroom one night and Lizzie Bennet is just stood there, in your bath. You swap places with her through a doorway that leads into the Longbourn house (don’t question the logistics) and have to patch together the story of Pride and Prejudice without having Elizabeth around. Amanda has to learn to adapt, fast. It’s downright hilarious and has the best Mr. Collins out of any adaptation I’ve seen so far. The opening scene could have come from right inside my brain. I feel you, Amanda! Best bits have to include Amanda getting drunk at the Netherfield ball and forcing Mr. Darcy to climb into a lake, wet shirt and all. It’s light, fun and so relatable. The all time winner in my book! There we have it! Going through all of these has definitely made me crave a snow day under the covers with my laptop out and a nice frothy coffee by my side. Please, snow clouds, drop a load on us overnight! Do you have any favourites that you’d add to the list? Let’s all nurture our obsessions! Follow Snug:
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