Lark Rise to Candleford 4 (2011)


   
Rating: 5 out of 5
Rated: TVPG
 
Reviewer: Rissi C.
 
BBC’s beautiful period continuity has lasted four years. In those years, characters have grown and changed. We’ve earned an appreciation for some where there once was none, been forced to dislike others after seeing things about them that weren’t so endearing, smiled at the bloom of first love in its most innocent forms and cried right along with these residents heartbreak. Now, the network is pulling this out from under us in the cruelest manner, having announced early on we were only being given six episodes -- the worst was yet to come when recently we were given reason why: this is the successful show's final season.
  
Life in Lark Rise continues to be difficult for the Timmins family. A family of seven reduced to five, Emma (Claude Blakely) finds herself forced to be so much more than just a mother to raise her remaining four children. The eldest, Laura (Olivia Hallinan) is still flourishing at her post office position in Candleford under the careful guidance of the postmistress, Dorcas Lane (Julia Sawalha)… and she enjoys a lengthy courtship with Daniel Parish (Ben Aldridge), the resident editor-in-chief of the Candleford Chronicle. With Emma’s husband gone to work in Oxford, money is always cause for concern but with a postal money order on the way from Robert, it would seem their burdens will ease. Sending son, Edmund (Thomas Ryhs Jones) to fetch the money, Laura has reservations about giving Edmund the money, brother or not because of post office regulations negating release of the money save for the person to whom the order is made out to. This leads to Dorcas bending the rules because of her relations to the family. On the trek home, Edmund is robbed, causing Dorcas to hold a guilty conscience and her admission to Minnie (Ruby Bentall) that she must quit interfering in the lives of her friends.
 
Meanwhile, Ruby Pratt (Victoria Hamilton) has only just returned from her extended stay in Pontefract, where she thought she’d found love only to return home weepy at the mere sight of a letter from her former beau, something which mystifies even her sister, Pearl (Matilda Ziegler). Coinciding with all of this finds a man who has just lost his entire life to a bank note foreclosing on his business and the recent loss of his wife. Gabriel Cochrane (Richard Harrington) makes his way to the small but prosperous town of Candleford hoping to bring notice to his cause and willing to fight the injustice. Postman Thomas Brown (Mark Heap) and his wife Margaret (Sandy McDade) are happily following his mission, knowing this was indeed misuse of vulnerable trust. Newly resigned to stop her well-meaning meddling, Dorcas still gives Gabriel lodgings and a job at the forge, work that interests her beloved adopted son, Sydney (Edward Darnell-Hayes) as he comes to see in Gabriel the father figure he does not have.
 
The entire crew – from the cast to any and all behind-the-scenes crew – had something magical going with this little series. Not in the traditional sense of how one thinks of magic but rather in the way the series is back-dropped and the quaint methods in which the stories are told. Based off the memoirs of Flora Thompson, it is told through the narration of an older Laura Timmins but her character in the show is said to be based off the author, herself. Even though I came into seeing this later than most people thanks to a lengthy delay in U.S. distribution, it didn’t take long for this beautiful series to surge to the top of my favorites list. Writers had a way of taking such an insignificant event in these protagonists’ lives and turning it into poignant lessons of love, faith or humbled forgiveness, often times melding more than one of these messages in one expressive sweep of how television greatness should look and feel. All of the characters (or nearly all) are likable even in their most trying moments. I adore Dorcas and Laura. They have many a faults but something about their attitude towards life is a pleasant change from normal productions. Dorcas’ character could all too easily have been written as the stereotyped bitter woman thanks to the blows she has been dealt both in a personal scope as well as professional. However, she is probably the most wonderful character of the series, despite her human failings. She is wise, patient and has more importantly learned from her many mistakes. Laura on the other hand has grown and matured greatly. About half way through it struck me how much that is evident. She and Daniel and so cute together, and I think writers knew best when putting her with him rather than other suitors. Each and every one has their virtues amidst their less admirable traits which hopefully, they recognize at some point and are willing to work on. Gabriel was a bright spot as a new resident and I very much relished in he and Dorcas’ all-too-rare scenes – their relationship is most interesting and in many ways complex compared to her former ones. Minnie continues to delight as does young Sydney.
 
My one “big” regret of the shows’ finale – apart from a general dislike of the idea that I won’t be able to re-visit these beloved TV personalities any longer, was an absence of Brendon Coyle’s Robert. He was absolutely fabulous in the role but alas he left this character for another, equally good role. In addition to this already magnificent cast list is the supporting cast Linda Bassett, John Daglelish and Karl Johnson. Over the four years, the costuming has impressed but much of it is recycled, which is probably accurate considering even the more polished Miss Lane wouldn’t purchase a new frock for every day of each new week. Nevertheless, it is always an asset to the series. To be honest, I cannot think of any content complaints that merit space here. There are a few feminist movements (Margaret joining an all-male sports game); dishonesty and tavern drinking, but little should serve to keep families away. The small-town charms are reminiscent of times past with some beautiful, simple moments and revelations, and the characters are too wonderful to be forced to now say good-bye too. Whether it is a squabble over a prize-winning pig between village and town or Dorcas’ now iconic “one weakness” phrase, this will be one ensemble that is greatly missed. Your imagination may have to do the rest of the thinking for certain characters considering not all get their solid ending. It is hard to say “good-bye” to something that has brought such simple joys…