The first third of this unusual period drama is challenging. It makes some solid attempts to be true to the times when wives were considered no more than property; from a contemporary position, it is rather off-putting. What is more disturbing through this first third is that it is based on the real Lady Seymour Worsley (aka Seymour Dorothy Fleming). However, the remainder of the historical is gratifying and satisfying, though not perhaps as you expect it to be, and wouldn’t work without the initial set-up. Despite the nearly 300 years between them, the general sense of the film, at least as to the rising independence of woman, is ultimately much like Dangerous Beauty. And men, in majority, just don’t come off well in either piece … and it is no real surprise given their starting point.
Dormer (Game of Thrones) struts her stuff well, going from naive idealist to strong realist. It isn’t a particularly brilliant performance, but she carries the airs and look of the age well, making it work. In truth, the script doesn’t really provide her a lot to work with either. She is intended to be a show piece for a good part of the story… she only gets to comment on the events she’s a part of through subtle looks and responses, but with little action on her part.
Evans (Endeavour) gets to do a bit more, as the ostensible head of the house and main driver of the wrack and ruin brought upon it. And while there is no question from the outset that they both lose a lot, it is really more about how they got there and what may happen next. As the glue between them, Barnard (The Adventurer: Curse of the Midas Box) plays the Worsleys’ friend and “friend.” He is just pretty and competent enough to pull off the role but is there more as a foil for Dormer than as a real character.
Director Folkson (The Decoy Bride) manages to overcome the script deficiencies by using short flashbacks, especially as related to Lord W’s motivations which are so steeped in the time and one particular moment that they are easily missed. This isn’t your typical period drama, which saves it from obscurity. Fleming is a fascinating and strong character. Even at her most vulnerable, she is quick-witted and confident in her intentions, despite where they lead her. Watch for it when it becomes available, but for now, there is at least the book it was based upon to enjoy.