Showing posts with label British mysteries. Show all posts
Showing posts with label British mysteries. Show all posts

Monday, May 9, 2022

If You Love All Things British - TV, that is

[I review the British TV series "Before We Die," "Ridley Road," "Anatomy of a Scandal" and "A Very British Scandal"]


Before We Die (2021)


A police detective is put in a bad situation when she discovers her son is working as a police informant.

Based on a Swedish series, the story moves from Stockholm to Bristol, England and follows police detective Hannah Laing (Lesley Sharp) who is being leaned on to retire.  She is estranged from her son, Christian (Patrick Gibson), because a couple of years earlier she had him arrested for drug dealing and he ended up in prison.  Duh.  And she wonders why her son is mad at her.  This is an example of more than one bad decision Hannah makes in this series.

Anyway, when the series begins, Hannah is having an affair with Sean (Bill Ward), a married colleague, who had been on Christian's side while he was in prison. When Christian gets out of prison, he starts working as a dishwasher at a Croatian restaurant owned by the Mimica family, a job he was able to get because he shared a cell with Stefan Vargic (Petar Cvirn), whose girlfriend Bianca Mimica (Issy Knopfler) is a member of the Mimica family. But Christian's connection to Stefan becomes precarious when he is attracted to Bianca and she him. 

And then things get really precarious when Christian notices what appears to be criminal activity taking place at the restaurant. He alerts Sean, who, in turn, recruits Christian to continue working there but undercover as an informant for him. It doesn't hurt that Christian understands Croatian (Hannah's ex and Christian's father was Croatian). Then, Sean disappears after telling Hannah he was going to meet an informant and the next time we see him, he is being tortured by some guys with eastern European accents. Not good. And the torture stuff is also not good.

Hannah teams up with Billy Murdoch (Vincent Regan), a former soldier and expert on Eastern European drug gangs (how convenient) to investigate Sean's disappearance.  Billy suspects the Mimica family of running a drugs racket, so Hannah tries to get closer to her son to find out what the heck is going on, and in so doing, gets herself deeply involved in this whole mess and, like I said, makes bad decision after bad decision.

Meanwhile, Christian gains the respect of the family and gets deeper and deeper into the drug smuggling ring. He also gets deeper and deeper into a relationship with Bianca, because dare I say, Christian is a very handsome young man, which doesn't make Stefan very happy and things go from bad to worse, as these sorts of mystery series have a habit of doing. 

I'm not sure if it's the writing or the acting, but there are some major "huh?" and overdramatic moments, and Sharp's Hannah can be very frustrating, and did I say she makes some bad and cringy decisions?  I think I threw my shoe at the screen at least once.  And for the life of me, I could not figure out what the title of this series means, which still bugs me.

But did I mention that young Christian is hot and totally my type?  Oops, scratch that.

Rosy the Reviewer says... but, hey, this is a British mystery series. Even when the Brits don't quite hit the mark, their shows are still better than most of their American counterparts and, though frustrating at times, this one is compelling.
(PBS Masterpiece Channel, Amazon Prime and Apple+)



Ridley Road (2021)


A young Jewish girl from Manchester moves to London and finds herself involved with an anti-Semitic fascist group.

During the 60’s, many of us Baby Boomers longed to go to “Swingin’ London,” visit Carnaby Street and hang out with the Beatles.  I know I did. But what I didn’t realize was that it wasn’t all groovy.  In fact, there was some evil taking place – the rise of neo-Nazi fascism.

This four-part series from Masterpiece Theatre (PBS) tells the story of Vivien Epstein (Agnes O'Casey), a young Jewish hairdresser from Manchester, who follows Jack, her unsuitable ex-boyfriend to London, despite the fact her parents have arranged a marriage for her with someone who is suitable.  When she arrives in London, she discovers that Jack has gone underground with the anti-fascist 62 Group, run by her uncle, Soly (Eddie Marsan), and infiltrated the anti-Semitic National Socialist Movement. When Jack mysteriously disappears, Vivien changes her name to Jane Carpenter, dyes her hair platinum blonde and also goes undercover, catching the eye of the leader, Colin Jordan (Rory Kinnear). It’s all about Vivian’s double life the cat and mouse game that plays out as she tries to find Jack.

Created by Sarah Solemani and based on Jo Bloom’s novel and real events (Colin Jordan was a real life bad guy and there really was a battle between the 62 Group and his National Socialist Movement), we see how the neo-Nazis were able to plant the seed in working class communities that Jewish people were responsible for what was wrong in their world. Sadly, there is still that sort of attitude circulating today in the 21st century, making this a timely reminder of how easily Fascism can creep into the world. 

Agnes O’Casey, who plays Vivian/Jane is a compelling young actress with the most expressive eyes. This is her first starring role and I expect not her last. She is on her way!

If you enjoy British dramas and can get over the idea that a young hairdresser from Manchester can convincingly infiltrate a neo-Nazi group, you will enjoy this.  I was hooked from the first episode. 

Rosy the Reviewer says…a high-class melodrama, the kind of series we have come to expect from the Brits, though it stretches credibility at times. However, it's a satisfying series about good vs evil.  And did I say it was timely? The film ends with this epilogue or post-script -

"And the fight against fascism continues..." (Masterpiece Theatre - PBS)


Anatomy of a Scandal (2022)


A British politician is on his way up when he is accused of rape.

James Whitehouse is a British Tory MP who is accused of rape by one of his younger associates, one he had been carrying on an affair with. Sound familiar? It’s a sensitive subject (quite a few descriptions of sexual violence), so prepare yourselves.

Rupert Friend and Sienna Miller play James and Sophie Whitehouse, who both met at Oxford, married, and now are living happily with their two beautiful children. His political career is thriving and it doesn’t hurt that he is a close friend of the Prime Minister. You see, James and the Prime Minister were also at Oxford together and members of the Libertine Society. With a name like that, you can guess what those boys were up to.

James and Sophie both reek of privilege and life is good until James is accused of rape by a young woman from his office, a young woman he had been having an affair with for five months. Now he must not only deal with the rape charge, but he has to deal with his marriage to Sophie, who had no idea her perfect marriage was no longer perfect.
James is arrested and put on trial and it’s all very much “he said, she said,” as these cases often are, but the prosecutor, Kate Woodcroft (wonderfully played by Michelle Dockery – you know, Lady Mary from “Downton Abbey?”) is determined to nail this guy. Needless to say, she disapproves of James, and no one scowls disapprovingly quite like Michelle. She did that a lot in “Downton Abbey,” and she does it a lot in this series as well.
Once James is arrested, there are the expected courtroom scenes, but then there is a huge twist in episode four that I didn’t see coming. How unlike me. But I loved it. And turns out the scandal isn’t just the rape case against James. There is so much more. The story goes back and forth in time from the college years to the present as the past comes back to haunt all of the main characters.
Rosy the Reviewer says...other than some questionable camera choices, the story is riveting, the acting is wonderful, the ending is satisfying and it’s all over in six episodes. What more could you ask for in a series? (This is Season One in what will be a Netflix anthology series involving various scandals).






Divorces can't get much nastier than this one.
Claire Foy stars as Margaret Whigham Campbell, the Duchess of Argyll, and it’s all about her very famous marriage and divorce from Ian Campbell, the Duke of Argyll. Fans of “The Crown” will recognize Claire as the young Queen Elizabeth I in the early seasons of that series. However, clutch your pearls, because, in this, Claire has been transformed into a much less sympathetic character.
It’s the 1960’s and Margaret Whigham is a rich and glamorous debutante with a bad reputation. She meets Ian Campbell, the Duke of Argyll (Paul Bettany), who is one of those aristocrats with a title and a big pile of a castle that needs fixing up but no money to do it. Oh, and he’s already married with two sons. But Margaret is used to getting what she wants and she wants Ian’s title and that castle, and he wants her money, so wife #1 is out the door. Not exactly the best start for a successful marriage.
Margaret goes about using her money to fund the castle’s restoration and pretty much pays for everything. Oh, and did I mention that Ian isn't very nice? In fact, he is a mean drunk and a drug addict.
However, I am not excusing Margaret. She isn't very nice either. She is a schemer and does some abhorrent things, but she didn't deserve what she got. Let me just say, that when she ran out of money restoring that money pit of a castle, things fell apart. Ian filed for divorce for adultery (he accused her of having sex with just about everybody), she counter sued and an ugly court case full of slut shaming ensued.
Created by Sarah Phelps, this is a fascinating true story with wonderful performances about a time when women, even rich ones, had few rights.
Moral of the story? Ladies, don’t marry a bastard, even if he is a Duke.
This is Season Two of yet another anthology series that dramatizes true British scandals, each series standing alone. After you watch this one, you might want to go back and see Season One which was called “A Very English Scandal” and starred Hugh Grant. That's what I'm going to do.
Rosy the Reviewer says…if you like true Brit, this is for you and it's a mere three episodes- you can binge it in a weekend whilst enjoying your tea and crumpets (or whatever). That’s what I did. Well, not crumpets. And not tea! (Amazon Prime)

Thanks for reading!

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