tue 20/11/2018

The Village, BBC One | reviews, news & interviews

The Village, BBC One

The Village, BBC One

Peter Moffat's long-form drama has a decent start

The Middletons at home on the farm in 1914 Derbyshire

Peter Moffat's latest project is a long-form drama reminiscent of Heimat (the Edgar Reitz project that told a German family's story through the 20th century) in which he charts 100 years of life in a Derbyshire village up to the present day. The first series started last night and its six episodes cover 1914-1920; the following series haven't yet been commissioned, but on the evidence of the opening chapter Moffat must be hopeful.

The story is told through the eyes of Bert Middleton (David Ryall), now the “second oldest man in Britain”, remembering his childhood. It starts with the summer of 1914, when he was 12 and “the bus first came to the village”. Moffat neatly captures the limits of many British lives before mass communication and affordable transport - “abroad” was going into the next parish and, as Bert told us, “Nobody had left the village in a hundred years.”

The bus brings the spirited Suffragette Martha (Charlie Murphy, pictured right) to the village, joining her Methodist preacher father and then the school as a teacher. Bert, on the verge of puberty (a situation told in well observed and amusing vignettes), falls instantly in love with her, but she has eyes only for his adored older brother Joe (Nico Mirallegro), who protects him from the wrath of their hard-drinking father, John (John Simm). John is unpopular in the village and has to bring in the harvest on his own as none of his neighbours will help him. His long-suffering wife, the aptly named Grace (Maxine Peake), keeps the peace at home and encourages her sons to seek a life beyond the confines of farm and village.

Joe works up at the “big house”, where Juliet Stevenson's Clem is the mater familias of the Allingham family who, like the Middletons, have lived here for generations. At different points in the drama, a member of each family states they “belong here”, one of the many rather obvious counterpoints Moffat uses in The Village - brutal father and kindly mother, the kindly teacher at Bert's school and his cane-at-the-ready colleague, the poor Middletons and the rich Allinghams. The last set-up, by the way, has led to some describing this as the BBC's answer to Downton Abbey. It's not, so let's not detain ourselves by discussing it further.

When war is declared Joe sees his chance to escape. We know the devastation to come (although not if Joe survives) and last night's final scene, in which old Bert clutched a picture of Joe and his pals waving goodbye as all the village's young men marched off to the slaughter of Flanders fields, was beautifully done, and enough to make you tune in next week to see how they fared.

There were some jarring notes - would Martha, Suffragette or no, really have been quite so informal with the Allinghams, people who at that time would be considered her betters? And, while the exact location of the village isn't given, the drama was filmed in the Peak District but none of the actors speaks with a Derbyshire drawl - instead it's meandering t'northern, while some actors don't bother with an accent at all.

Those caveats aside, The Village is very watchable - beautifully shot by director Antonia Bird, terrifically well acted, particularly by the young Bert, Bill Jones, able to convey all manner of emotions with his big, round eyes. Not Heimat level yet, but a decent start.

Young Bert, Bill Jones, is able to convey all manner of emotions with his big, round eyes

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Comments

Was SO disappointed. The first episode was a load of nothingness. Boring. Inaccurate depictions. No watchable story - you basically said it all above. Jumped from one scene to another leaving you 'lost'. Totally inappropriate, inaccurate, inplausable sexual scenes which added nothing at all to the story - just stretched it out making it even more painful to watch. Anybody who enjoyed it must be brain dead.

Well, I'm Brain Dead then. I've really enjoyed the series so far and just take it for what it is, light entetainment. Its well written and very well acted.

'Light entertainment'? I think not. Part of The Village's immense attraction, for me at any rate, is the strange angle it often takes on difficult or painful themes. It makes you think a bit harder about how in so many ways other than the obvious the First World War might have impacted on a Derbyshire village. There are a few overwrought strands, but I buy most of it.

Very disappointing I agree. Everyone looked so clean and the meal scene with the Allinghams totally unbelievable like a dinner party in NW1. I love Maxine Peake and John Simm but they seemed to be struggling with a less than interesting script.I did work on BBC version of A Shepherd's Life entitled 'Bread of Blood' and it is very difficult to make rural life and its hardships truly convincing when the landscape inevitably gives everything a romantic veneer. It needs a Bresson or Dardennes Brothers to achieve such a paired down vision. Lets hope it improves.

Couldn't agree more. Beautifully shot, acted as well as it could have been, but there is basically no meat to this programme. Disappointing.

Deadly dull and boring. Four hours/episodes that could have been told in one. Very disappointing. Too much angst and not enough action

i would heartily disagree with the above comments and I am far from brain dead.Having recently moved from a rural village to live in the city,I can tell you that village politics havent changed that much! When watching a work of fiction one has to accept that it is not a reality .The drama and characters within The Village have drawn me in,I WANT to know what is going to happen to them. My biggest quibble is that old Bert seems to have blue eyes,while young Berts eyes are dark brown?

I, too, find myself drawn in by this series' understatement. Sometimes it's too oblique, but better that than having everything spelled out to a supposedly stupid audience. You'd expect top notch acting from Peake, Simm and Stevenson, and every nuance counts. There's some less than good juve acting elsewhere, and why do all the kids sound so London? Remember the fab acting of the boy in Cranford (too old now, of course)? But it looks beautiful and its quiet power can only grow.

I am drawn in by this series but I am not sure why, I have found it very slow and feel there is a lot to conclude in the final eposide. Excuse me if I am being totally stupid but was the shot heard at the end of last Sunday's eposide Joe's demise?

The scenes in the chapel show the Methodist Minister in a cassock, surplice and stole - the garb of an Anglican Priest"! This is an unforgiveably ignorant mistake. Also the supposedly village chapel shows, in the background, a large and well specified organ which would have been most unlikely.

I love The Village,it gave me a look into the lives of my ancestors. I wish there was more.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters