In 2012 Benedict Cumberbatch portrayed the character of Christopher Tietjens in the five-part BBC period drama series Parade’s End, an adaptation for tv of the tetralogy of novels by Ford Madox Ford. The screenplay was written by Tom Stoppard, and the series was directed by Susanna White.
Set before and during World War I, the adaptation focuses on the love triangle of Anglican Christopher Tietjens, second son of the lord of the manor of Groby, Yorkshire, who is a disconsolate, Tory statistician in London, and his wife Sylvia Satterthwaite, a Catholic – which doesn’t stop her from being promiscuous, self-centered and downright evil at times. The socialite woman only married him – after a heated sex session during a train ride – to hide the fact that the child she was carrying at the time might be someone else’s – or Christopher’s. To complete it all, there’s Valentine Wannop, young and tolerant in thinking, she’s not only a suffragette, but also the daughter of a lady novelist. Valentine – in the course of the story – is very torn between her idealism and her attraction to “Chrissy”. Read More »
And so it’s happening. The filming for the 2018 Sky Atlantic mini series „Melrose“, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the title character, is well under way. Apparently Cumberbatch had been telling the truth, when he answered the question of which character he really would love to play with „Patrick Melrose?“. His obvious passion for Patrick and the novels right there and then made me curious and I’ve read the whole series of autobiographical novels written by Edward St. Aubyn – Nevermind, Bad News, Some Hope, Mother’s Milk, and At Last – a while back already.
The books’ timeline spans over decades – Patrick Melrose being only 5 years old at the outset and over 40 at the end, with each novel actually describing the events taking place in usually just one day or even only a couple of hours, focussing on the actual event taking place at the time. And yet we see the family’s history unfold in the various flashbacks telling about events of the past that have so obviously impacted the here and now, leading to what Patrick Melrose is going through – from being abused by his father as a child over becoming a drug addict to finally recovering and seeing his way through the net of lies and intrigues of the past, finally to emerge as a different person, not unscathed, but still alive.
In my opinion, the overarching theme of the books is that of dysfunctional relationships – marriages, families, childhoods – dysfunctional lives in general, shining a spotlight on the British upper class in decline, but being in denial about it, self-loathing – it wasn’t long into the first novel until I spontaneously thought „like father like son“.
BBC One’s The Child in Time got some harsh criticism, mostly for the production, while the acting, especially by Benedict Cumberbatch and Kelly MacDonald was generally praised.
As in the book, the storyline focuses on Stephen and Julie, as they try to cope with the loss of their daughter Kate, a second thread focusing on Stephen’s friend Charles Darke (nomen est omen!), his sudden retreat to the countryside and subsequent regress into childhood. We also learn about Stephen’s parents and their past, the „pub scene“ having a central importance for the plot, as turns out in the progress of the story.
The book has more plot with elaborate descriptions of characters and situations, making the storyline somewhat less elusive, no way to put all of that into a 90 minutes timeframe for tv though. Some viewers thus got quite irritated watching the tv film. They sensed plotholes and got confused by the non-chronological storyline, the flashbacks and flash forwards. In my opinion though, the makers of The Child in Time were adamant to get the message across not only by what is said, but also by what you see:Read More »