Doctor Thorne (2016)


Life is uncomplicated at Greshamsbury Park. Impending nuptials has the house in chaos, with the eldest daughter about to marry an ambitious young politician and landowner. But while discussions about bridesmaids flourish over tea, Lady Arabella (Rebecca Front) is eager to prevent another union, between her son Frank (Harry Richardson) and the nearby doctor's niece, Mary Thorne (Stefanie Martini). Mild mannered but strong opinioned Mary has won over her only son and heir's heart and that simply will not do! He must marry well, you see, because his parents are in debt to the tune of a hundred thousand pounds... to the cantankerous Sir Roger Scatcherd (Ian McShane).


After another bout of illness, Scatcherd calls Doctor Thorne (Tom Hollander) to his side for a diagnosis... and to announce a change in his will. The good physician learns something important and warns him that his plans to run for public office may earn him a visit from the Grim Reaper. Scatcherd, naturally, does not listen... and neither does Mary. Frank's domineering, interfering relatives push him toward proposing to an older, frank American woman, who is smarter than they think, while a local lawyer and future aspiring politician (Nicholas Rowe) toys with one of their hearts.


I have lamented for some time the absence of clean book adaptations, under a dearth of world war two dramas. Then came this marvelous little gem, which filled most of a rainy afternoon with sunshine and laughter. Most Anthony Trollope adaptations are serious, stoic, melodramatic affairs, and while this has no shortage of memorable characters and vivid events, it also has a sense of irony and humor. It is both serious drama and tongue in cheek, a little satirical while still being romantic. It is a bright world populated by ridiculous notions, raging alcoholics, and mercenary people, some of whom get their comeuppance. Virtue and fidelity has its reward, and the ending implies impending happiness for one and all.


The cast includes knowns and unknowns, all of whom are marvelous. The costuming design is lovely. Some twists are foreshadowed, others wink at the audience as they flutter past. It invokes a sense of yearning for further Victorian adaptations. The only flaw is in the pacing. It moves at such a rapid rate that it might have used another episode to familiarize us further with the characters -- seeing a proposal, and hearing about it secondhand, are two different things. The heavy condensing means we never get to know secondary characters that well. Still, it's a diverting and much welcome deviation from the rampant sex of other recent adaptations.

Sexual Content:
References to an illegitimate child.
A bloody head injury after a fall from a horse.


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