The Crimson Petal & The White
June 28, 2011
Starring: Romola Garai, Chris O'Dowd, Amanda Hale, Shirley Henderson, Katie Lyons, Eleanor Yates, Elizabeth Berrington, Richard E. Grant, James Wilson, Clare Louise Connolly, Isla Watt, Tom Georgeson, Liz White,
“If you dare enter this world, you had better tread carefully,” warns Sugar in the shocking opening scene depicting the loveless immorality and seedy squalor of Victorian London’s Gin Lane. Brought up from infancy by the cold and mercenary Brothelkeeper Mrs Castaway, and prostituted as a young teenager, Sugar possesses a beguiling allure and intelligence beyond her years. Her unexpected intellect and seemingly subservient tenderness soon earn her the patronage of William Rachkam, a socially privileged yet insecure man torn between dreams of becoming a writer and following his father into the highly successful family business.
The lives of the main protagonists both begin to dramatically improve as a result of the inspiration they offer to each other. The densely engrossing plot line explores and intertwines the themes of death, love, sex and social class, which are further embodied and developed in Rackham’s family members.
His pitiable wife, Agnes, is seemingly driven to madness and serious physical illness by her unfulfilling existence, although viewers are never quite sure if her symptoms are purely psychosomatic and driven by despair. Sophie, their young daughter, is neglected and lacking in nurture due to her gender in an age when male heirs were of paramount importance. His brother, Henry, suffers irreconcilable torture when his godly dedication to social reform becomes besmirched by unwilling attraction to the seductive Mrs Fox.
This tense drama is splendidly acted and the understated script leaves viewers answering questions with more questions until the very climax. Who are the heroes and who are the villains? How much responsibility can each of these characters be expected to take for their actions and how deserving are they of the ultimate consequences? In the end, who wins and who loses?
Interviews with the Costumer, the Designer, the Director, the Director of Photography and the Make-up Artist make befitting special features, as each excelled in their fields with their contributions to making this drama so sumptuously believable and watchable.
In an additional Points of View feature, the Producer feels that this is the story that Dickens would have written if he had been allowed, which perfectly sums up the atmosphere of this enduring period drama.