Compulsory & addictive, it mimes froth of Victorian London Sts. Cinematography, costumes & sets force viewers deeper into its dark psychological story. The plot and writing are less than stellar. Lead characters portrayals leave one mesmerized by the despicable dearth and poverty of a Dickensian era. Catherine Cookson's poor and low-class tales come to mine too. Don't expect glamor and Victorian gaiety, but every form of crime and dereliction known of the time, 1874. No sympathy, it's lost in strong crass depictions that leave little to imagine. Mad, cunning women are played so well the viewer begins to hate, not adore these characters. Yet it's a mini-series you'll love hating.
The camera's eye, focused on the disgust of the dirty streets and rooms, is filmed so cunningly it resembles Impressionism art done with dark color. Not a love story, but debauchery glistening from mud, vomit, blood and ale. Stunning visuals obligate viewing. Romola Garai (Emma; Amazing Grace) turns sharply from roles like "Emma." As Sugar, she's sweet/sour in her portrayal both with and without clothing as she passes from prostitute, to mistress, to governess. Her Mom and Madam (Gillian Anderson- Bleak House) is so convincing she seems to have literally taken a turn into the underworld. Mrs. Fox (Shirley Henderson- Wish Me Luck: Series 3) seems unable to decide which side of the orgies she desires. William (Chris O'Dowd) will disgust men and women, with and without garments. Plenty more adding to a coarse, disturbing image of poverty and orgy coming to life. Adults only, strongly recommended.
SUBTITLES for all 4 episodes (an hour each) and bonus material.
Step immediately into a violent, crass world of brothels, drink, crime, and Sugar. Introductions of William, a want-to-be writer who mirrors Sugar's own novel attempt. His mad wife pens diaries of illness and abuse. Wm's bro writes sermons. Sugar decides Wm is a rung up the ladder of respect.
Wm gets Sugar an apt. She becomes `guardian angel' to another woman, to her gainful advantage. A mistress becomes obsessed. Mrs Fox and Wm's bro have their own bodily fantasies.
Sugar becomes a family tutor and more of a wife's madness is exposed via diaries, driving her closer to an asylum. Sugar interferes with unexpected results.
Sugar's lap of luxury begins to crumble. Loathing works its way into the lust. The climax of lives gets dirty and dark.
From the book by Michel Faber. BBC drama, not for the faint of heart. The title comes from a line of Tennyson's 1847 poetry, quoted in the series.
If you can't handle earthy, ghastly, sexual crudeness, give it a pass. I'm not sold that the film needed all of it, but it is there. This tames Cookson films and "Lady Chatterley's Lover."