Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Day One Hundred and Thirty-five - Call the Midwife: Season 1, Episode 1, "You never think of the Baby Boom as being difficult..."

...but, I do now.

I've been a bit remiss, meaning to have watched and written about Call the Midwife this past Mother's Day in honor of my own mother, who suggested the series to me a few weeks or so ago... but you know how it is, things come up and the schedule gets packed.

Not that she reads the blog or anything, it's just that we have precious little to bond over since she doesn't do movies much and the books we read are generally miles apart, I wanted this particular entry to be a bit special.

To me, anyway... and it is.

I think in a few weeks or months, I'll probably do the same for Downton Abbey (another of her shows), but I'll probably wait for that one until at least the middle of June, so we have something to talk about to get her mind off of her knee surgery.


Anywho, back to Call the Midwife.

Set in the 50's and centering on the trials and tribulations of an idealistic young midwife joining the service in the devastatingly poor East London, this first episode gives Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) a trial by fire as she is confronted both with the sickening conditions of a syphilitic patient and a difficult premature delivery caused by a fall in which the baby is expected to be stillborn.

I love the way it's written both to pull heavily at one's empathy while at the same time challenging the viewer to surrender the very real and visceral self-righteousness that the initial impressions about these mothers can give. The episode is balanced with smart early hostility by mothers and family members in the face of Jenny Lee just trying to do her job (and cracking under the pressure) to actual bonding and understanding by the end of the day.

Where there should be tragedy, there is... but there are also moments of hope. Sure, not every situation comes out alright in the end but, despite the losses, you end up feeling all the better about both the series and the world.

I also like the color palette here where everything is generally washed out and pale, simulating the haze of a period piece (plus, you know, all the fog). Whoever does their art and set direction did a bang up job, I think. Hopefully it will be maintained throughout the series.

Really, my only complaint would be that Vanessa Redgrave only narrates. Seeing her name in the credits made me think she'd be on screen, but apparently only her voice inhabits the role of the elder Jenny Lee recalling the series as her personal history. Effective, but still a bit disappointing she doesn't make an appearance.

Call the Midwife can definitely be a tearjerker, if this first episode is any indication, but I look forward to seeing the rest of the series... I'm just wondering how they can keep the tension, with all the required ups and downs, coming without relying on forced contrivances. It's a BBC drama, though... and they generally know what they're doing.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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