DVD Review: Parade's End

Parades End DVDSTUDIO: HBO Video | DIRECTOR: Susanna White | CAST: Rebecca Hall, Benedict Cumberbatch, Steve Graham, Rupert Everett, Rufus Sewell, Janet McTeer, Miranda Richardson
BLU-RAY & DVD RELEASE DATE: 9/10/2013 | PRICE: DVD $39.98, Blu-ray $49.99
BONUSES: interview with writer Tom Stoppard
SPECS: NR | 300 min. | Period drama | widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English, French and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

The 2012 HBO/BBC co-production Parade’s End is probably best enjoyed by those who’ve read enough Victorian literature to intuitively appreciate the plight of the generation of British gentlemen who had to reckon their nineteenth-century sensibilities with twentieth-century realities. These were the men who were utterly sincere in their noblesse oblige—who truly believed that the fate of the world would rise or fall on the conscience and character of the landed British gentry.

Parade's End scene

Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall star in Parade's End.

Parade’s End—based on the Ford Maddox Ford tetralogy—explores the life, loves, and fortunes of war of one such honor-bound Brit, Christopher Tietjens, played with gorgeous restraint and empathy by Benedict Cumberbatch (TV’s Sherlock). Tietjens struggles to balance the claims of his unfaithful wife (portrayed with aplomb by Lay the Favorite‘s Rebecca Hall) and mother of the child who may or may not be his against the woman he passionately loves, perky young suffragette Valentine Wannop (Adelaide Clemens, Silent Hill Revelation). This love triangle (or octagon, as the case may be—did I mention that his wife is chronically unfaithful?) is set against the backdrop of World War I, the suffragette movement, and the scandalous hypocrisies of the upper classes.

Parade’s End’s interiors and costumes are predictably beautiful and beautifully filmed, although there wasn’t as much time devoted to the trenches of WWI as one might expect from source material that is—at least in part—a war epic. While the series can drag a bit, or feel as if it’s dividing too little time among too many subplots, Cumberbatch and Hall are a powerful acting duo and worth the price of admission all on their own.

The bonus feature on the DVD set is a 25-minute audio track of an NPR interview of Parade’s End screenwriter Tom Stoppard (which, I learned, is pronounced Stoppard) conducted by Elvis Mitchell, set to a single still image of Cumberbatch, Hall, and Clemens. It’s a bit disappointing that the visual medium—and the wealth of gorgeous images from the miniseries itself—weren’t better exploited, but the interview itself is interesting, although it focuses primarily on a discussion of the Ford novels and changing social mores of the early twentieth century. Those hoping for behind-the-scenes stories about what happened on-set or the process of recreating Edwardian-era interiors and battlefields will have to do things the old-fashioned way and seek them out online.

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About Gwen

Gwen Cooper is a movie and TV lover and the author of Homer's Odyssey (no, not the one you're thinking of).