(Ian Richardson , Ian Charleson, et al / 2-DVD / NR / 2015 / BFS Entertainment)
Overview: A grand hotel fallen into decay, two women with secrets and a dangerous political situation about to boil over - these intriguing elements all combine in this gripping drama from the producer of the hit mini-series, 'The Irish R.M.'
DVD Verdict: Set immediately after WWI and focusing gently around the troubles between the English and the Irish in Ireland, this layered saga rewards a viewer genuinely interested in the fate of its protagonist, the Englishman Major Archer (Ian Charleson). Major Archer's own mystifying and repeated "troubles" seem to eventually mirror the political troubles of British-occupied Ireland. And Ian Charleson gives a delicious performance that evokes just such an interest in his fate, no matter how eccentric his surroundings.
With Major Archer as the focus, this film makes wonderful viewing, as we see the British in Ireland through his eyes. And everything that happens to him, and the people around him, can also serve as metaphors of the times.
Major Archer's primary interactions are with a self-absorbed and outdated Englishman, Edward Spencer (played aptly by Ian Richardson) and his eccentric family, and a magnetic and coquettish Irish Catholic named Sarah (Emer Gillespie) whose charms Archer succumbs to. Sympathetic to the Irish cause, Major Archer has antagonists who are exemplified by the young and belligerently British Captain Bolton (Sean Bean). All three protagonists - Charleson, Richardson, and Gillespie - play their parts perfectly, and as the sprawling and multi-layered saga finally winds to a close, it feels moving and momentous.
This is Ian Charleson's last screen role, and a delightfully rich one. He plays the mild-mannered yet deep-feeling Major Archer with depth and with pitch-perfect affect.
But, did you know - because surrounding this mini-series, this info is actually known folklore these days, according to Michael Palin, 'Troubles' was actually about to be filmed in early 1987 as a London Weekend Television (LWT) drama with Palin as Major Archer instead! The story goes that filming was shut down due to an LWT strike at the time, which dragged on so long that Palin wasn't available when shooting struck back up. Hence, Ian Charleson took the role as Major Archer onwards and upwards thereafter. This is a Full Screen Presentation (1:33.1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.