Posts Tagged ‘The Durrells in Corfu’

It’s never been a better time for British television and film fans in the US. With expanded live TV, DVD and streaming platform access to TV series and movies from the UK, we are truly “spoilt for choice”.

It’s a delicate balance, getting the mix of shows you’re watching just right. For example, I avoid having too many gritty dramas going on at once. I find it can lead to paranoia and despair, not to mention getting the plot lines of crime thrillers confused with one another. For me, one or two detective shows, a sitcom and a comedy panel program or episode of The Great British Bake Off can be handled without too much kerfuffle. Throw in a film a week and I’m pretty satisfied that I’m consuming a respectable amount of British entertainment, for a telly addict that is.

Also with this variety comes the dilemma of selecting the specific programs or films that will occupy hours of my precious time. Today I’ve decided to let you in on how I make my viewing choices. Sure, sometimes it’s the hot show that’s just started trending on Netflix or the return of a favorite series that I can’t wait to dive back into.

The brilliant and versatile Josh O’Connor (credit: BAFTA)

When I actually started to analyze it, I realized it’s often a process of one thing I’ve enjoyed leading to another.  And in that circumstance, I’d  have to say I frequently choose what to watch based on actors who stood out to me personally in a particular role.

Such was the case with Josh O’Connor. I first noticed him in the partly biographical dramedy series The Durrells in Corfu (known in the UK as  simply, The Durrells). O’Connor portrays Lawrence, eldest child of Louisa Durrell (Keeley Hawes) and an aspiring author and Bohemian. By all accounts, Larry is a talented writer who, unfortunately suffers frequent bouts of writer’s block. yet never seems at a loss for words.

With a tendency towards narcissism, sarcasm and brutal honesty, Larry can come across as a less than sympathetic character. But just as you’ve written him off, Larry shows himself to be vulnerable, a young man in the midst of an inner struggle. He’s trying to gain some independence from his family, to go his own way and make mistakes in the process. At the same time he must acknowledge the pull of his family and the very special bond he shares with his widowed mother as her confidant. It’s all very complicated and O’Connor walks the tightrope between arrogance and tenderness beautifully. His mother/son scenes with Keeley Hawes became some of my favorites and their poignancy always brought me to tears.

So with my interest securely captured by young O’Connor I wasn’t surprised when I saw his name included on this years’ list of BAFTA Rising Star nominees. In the past five years, he’d made quite a few guest appearances on well-known shows such as Doctor Who and Peaky Blinders and earned supporting roles in the TV movie The Wipers Times and in the third series of Ripper Street.

But the big fuss about Josh in 2017 appeared to be his performance in a British indie film called God’s Own Country. So as one thing leads to another, I promptly put a reserve on the DVD from my library and watched it the day it came in.

Josh plays Johnny Saxby, a sullen, hard-living young farmer from Yorkshire who feels trapped and isolated working on his ailing father’s farm. His life is joyless as he works long hours, drinks heavily and partakes in anonymous casual sex with other men.  That is until he meets Gheorghe (Alec Secareanu) a Romanian migrant worker hired by Johnny’s dad to help with the lambing season. Gheroghe teaches Johnny how to open up emotionally, communicate verbally and see his life differently.

The film has drawn obvious comparisons to Brokeback Mountain (and they do have some elements in common) but neither Johnny nor Gheorghe is fighting his sexual orientation. It is fundamentally the story of Johnny’s transformation from a self-destructive, detached young man to a more mature, responsible adult capable of tenderness and self-respect. It’s a hopeful story in the end, that a life can be turned around by love.

I wouldn’t recommend this film to viewers looking to see more of the same humorous and endearing family dilemmas that the Durrells face. The setting is equally beautiful and there are lots of animals, but that’s where the similarities stop. God’s Own Country is a bleaker look at family life and a far more adult examination of sex and love.

If, however, you enjoy seeing actors stretching their talents to play vastly different characters, you will be impressed with O’Connor in God’s Own Country. Johnny’s accent, the way he carries himself and his conspicuous silences are a total contrast to the more intellectual Larry Durrell who seems to enjoy the sound of his own voice and wouldn’t even contemplate delivering lambs or repairing stone walls.

I look forward to seeing what Josh O’Connor will do in the future including his upcoming appearance as Marius in the BBC non-musical adaption of Les Miserables. He also is reported to have a film project in the works with Bill Nighy and Annette Bening entitled Hope Gap.

Keep a look out for more of these posts.  If response is favorable, they may just become a recurring feature.


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This week has been about recognition of strong women – Thursday was International Women’s Day and today is Mothering Sunday in the UK.

Make no mistake, motherhood is definitely not for sissies; especially for those women who are raising the children (and sometimes, grandchildren) all on their own due to divorce or widowhood. Their grit, persistence and fierce love is inspiring.

Here are just a few examples of tough telly mums:

Louisa Durrell (Keeley Hawes) – The Durrells in Corfu

A widow and mother of four, Louisa takes a leap of faith to start a new life for her family in Greece. It’s a daily struggle to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads, never mind maintaining the animal sanctuary her youngest child has established.

Sgt. Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire) – Happy Valley

A 47 year old police officer, Catherine is divorced, lives with her sister who’s a recovering heroin addict, has two grown up children; one dead and one who doesn’t speak to her, and a grandson.

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Polly Gray (Helen McCrory) – Peaky Blinders

When she became a widow, Polly had her children removed from her care. She’s recently been reunited with her son Michael who made the choice, contrary to his mother’s wishes, to join of her crime syndicate family.

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DS Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman)- Broadchurch

Ellie is divorced and a working mother of two. First she had to come to grips with the fact that her husband was a murderer. Then her teenage son starts peddling porn. This mum is not a happy camper.

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Violet Crawley, The Dowager Countess of Grantham (Dame Maggie Smith) – Downton Abbey

The no-nonsense matriarch of an aristocratic family, the Dowager’s main concern is keeping her family’s reputation and fortunes intact. She expresses her love in blunt, but constructive terms.

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