Dismissed from her job when she's found to be pregnant, and subsequently miscarrying, young Bella Ford (Davidtz) is in a parlous way when she arrives, cold and alone, in an unfamiliar late-Victorian town in search of Arch Wilson (Wise), the cad who promised to marry her. She's taken in for the night by Pa Wainwright (Bell) and next day Ma Wainwright (Jones) offers her food and board alongside their three sons - Jed (Purefoy), a brash, cocksure soldier home on leave, Matty (Anderson), a more retiring shoemaker, and dark horse Con (Chaplin), slow of mind, hot of temper. Inevitably, Bella's presence stirs up rivalry between the three. Moreover, her past may yet return. This is another landscape- and costume-driven piece, a lavishly designed, earnestly acted period drama which risks smothering its characters' emotions under their bonnets and livery. Closer examination reveals the problem to be less the props than Christopher Neame's screenplay, which troubles neither to develop the characters nor to allow the drama respite from a raft of narrative clichés. It's no disaster, but grand and ultimately tragic goings-on like these ought to inspire more than a raised eyebrow.
Cast and crew