Genre: Period Drama, Romance
My Rating: *****
Official Rating: None, but probably either PG or PG-13
Age Group: 14+
The Industrial Revolution in England brought about many changes in city life: the streets were dirtier, the people poorer, and the employers more anxious than ever to make as much money as they can.
Margaret Hale is thrown from her beautiful home in the southern English countryside and forced to move to Milton, an industrial town, with her father and mother when her father defected from the Church of England. She finds herself thrust into the society of Mr. Thornton, a cotton mill owner, and immediately dislikes him, while he, in turn, begins to take interest in her.
But as Margaret befriends the factory workers, and Thornton attempts to keep his company afloat through a union strike, the two equally-stubborn people seem unable to conquer their differences. The tragedy surrounding Margaret only strengthens her resolve against Thornton.
The Bad -
This is a dark and sad story, but there is very little that is objectionable, and most of it is violence:
- We see Thornton beat a man for smoking in his factory (a very dangerous thing in a cotton mill.)
- The strikers were originally peaceful, but under the leadership of a desperate man, they threaten violence, and wound Margaret with a rock.
- The union leader knocks around the man who betrayed the union. This man eventually goes mad and dies. We see his dead body.
- Margaret is slightly bullied by factory workers, who tease her for fun.
- Margaret hugs her brother, and is seen by Thornton. Thornton doesn't know that he is her brother, and so assumes the worst about Margaret. This is never clearly stated, but it is obvious, especially when Thornton's pushy mother confronts Margaret about the situation.
- We see various images of absolute poverty.
- Margaret lies in order to cover up her brother's presence in their home, for her brother is a fugitive from the law.
- Thornton's father is said to have committed suicide.
Margaret wishes to help the poor, and often brings them food and money. She tries to convince Thornton to let up on the strikers and give in to them, for most have starving families.
Margaret is also a very moral and upright person, always trying to do what is right in every situation. She makes some innocent mistakes, and learns from them. She rarely makes big mistakes, and when she does, she immediately is sorry for them and apologizes.
Thornton truly believes that he is doing what is best for himself and his workers when he resists the union. He is very conscious of his duties to his family, and does everything in his power to keep them from poverty. Despite his eventual dislike for Margaret, he aids her in her time of need.
Thornton comes to realize how horrible the living conditions of his workers are, and begins to show compassion to them.
Nicholas, the union leader, stands up for his rights, but when forced to choose his family or his pride in his union, he chooses family. He charitably adopts six orphaned children, even though he can barely afford to keep his own from starving. He cares deeply for his very sick daughter and does everything possible to help her condition.
My Conclusion -
North & South is a story about people. There is no "bad" guy or "good" guy; every character is trying to make their way in a crazy world as best as they can. They all make mistakes, some of them pretty serious ones, but they atone for them when they realize what they have done. Their motives are never malicious, and they love each other, whether for good or for ill. The beauty of this movie lies in the utter humanity of the characters, and how they struggle against the stark reality of the Industrial Revolution.
This movie is a BBC adaptation of an Elizabeth Gaskell book, which basically means that the plot is utterly beautiful, the characters are well-rounded and realistic, and the cinematography is astounding(quite frankly, I would recommend any BBC movie in this particular genre). It is a very sad story, but a very good one, and I can honestly say that I enjoyed every minute of it. North & South certainly isn't for everyone - it is a period drama, after all - but I think that if you take the time to watch it, you won't be disappointed.