Wives and Daughters (based on the book by Elizabeth Gaskell) brings us another ensemble cast that weaves through the mores, class distinction, gossip, and romance that defines British costume drama.
Justine Waddell portrays the central character, Molly Gibson, a sweet and innocent young woman. Her doctor father (Bill Paterson) is loving, but protective as Molly has grown up without a mother since childhood. However, as the main story begins Molly finds herself surrounded by maternal influences. In an effort to supply her with some female guidance her father proposes to Hyacinth (Francesca Annis), a local woman with ties to the Lord and Lady of the county. Molly is naturally upset at the prospect of someone new interrupting their peaceful existence, but Molly does her best to accept her new mother. Molly herself seeks out the companionship of Mrs. Hamley (Penelope Wilton), a more amiable female influence than her new step-mother (It becomes clear that Hyacinth is, to use a twentieth century term, high maintenance). In the process, Molly also becomes close to Mr. Hamley (Michael Gambon) and their sons Osbourne and Roger. Eventually, Hyacinth's daughter Cynthia (Keeley Hawes) enters the picture and adds to the list of influential women in Molly's life. Although Cynthia has a more negative impact, the two are genuinely attached to each other (not fake-friendly as many young women in that position could/would be).
This mini-series stands out for it's performances. Waddell plays Molly as pure, but not naive. Cynthia can be quite annoying at times and Hawes' performance is accurate in this regard. She is the crazy to the calm and sensible Molly. Annis captures the haughtiness of Hyacinth trying to create a household to her standards (which is really over-compensation for lack of self-confidence). And, Gambon delivers some of the best lines in the series as the crusty, but lovable Mr. Hamley.
Wives and Daughters
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