Masterpiece Classics - this Sunday, February 13 Episode One
"A man's journal is not only a chronicle of his life, but a peek into his soul. So is the case with Logan Mountstuart, the protagonist of "Any Human Heart" (airing as part of "Masterpiece Classic" for the next three weeks, beginning at 9 p.m. Sunday on PBS).
Based on William Boyd's novel, the film follows Mountstuart through the various stages of his life: as a young man (played by Sam Claflin), through adulthood (Matthew Macfadyen) and into his twilight years (Jim Broadbent).
When we first meet Mountstuart, the lustful youth is making a wager with his chums on who will lose his virginity first. This lightness weaves its way through the darkness that will inevitably find Mountstuart as his life progresses. His love affairs help shape Mountstuart into the man he becomes, despite how they end -- and they all do, for better or worse.
But it's not all romance and heartache. Adventure is Mountstuart's friend. He becomes a published author to his great delight but, after years of false starts on his third book, puts on his journalist's hat and covers the Spanish Civil War. Then there's his stint in British Naval intelligence; his move to New York, running a local art gallery; and that time he fell in with a terrorist cell.
Mountstuart also runs into familiar faces over the years: Winston Churchill (Gerry George), Ernest Hemingway (Gulian Ovenden), Ian Fleming (Tobias Menzies) and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (Tom Hollander and Gillian Anderson).
At times fantastical but nonetheless relatable, "Any Human Heart" is a high-wire act that thrives due to the script and the performances. Boyd's screenplay is clever, droll and human. Mountstuart is realistically fleshed out, filled with foibles, naïveté and a degree of selfishness that allow him to constantly evolve -- even to the detriment of others.
The trio charged with giving life to such a man does so with brio, gravitas and gumption. Claflin brings out Mountstuart's innocence and zest for life, making it engrained in the character from the beginning. Macfadyen does the heaviest lifting by revealing Mountstuart's heart and picking up the pieces as it's shattered more than once. Not to be outdone, Broadbent picks up where Claflin and Macfadyen leave off, layering in the shadows of a man haunted by those who were taken from him, as well as from the mistakes he's made, yet enjoying the freedom that comes when peace is finally made within.
Logan Mountstuart's life is filled with experiences that would make some men envious. And while some may think they've seen this story before, take a moment to reflect on the opening line of Henry James' "Louisa Pallant," from where "Any Human Heart" takes its title: "Never say you know the last word about any human heart."
Joanne Thornborough is a film and TV critic, and a copy editor for The Daily Journal.
Blooper reel for LucyP - Colin Firth in a movie I've never heard of
Evidently the rage for Colin Firth is sparking new interest in Jane Austen. Hallelujah! That's good news for me and the others of my ilk and our feeble attempts to recreate yet another episode for the on-going soap opera - Pride and Prejudice. What is it about that story that we all love so much? One of the persistent questions I get asked is which Darcy do I prefer and I don't know anymore. They are both lovely but I wish they had given Matthew a better appearance in the movie. I've even heard him comment about how rough they made him look.
Week three and I have developed definite stomach problems with this book business. I have several blogs this week. Jane Austen Book Club, Maria Grazia, posted her review. She had e-mailed me how she kept her husband awake, laughing over the book. The review said it was a little too long and questioned the "new" language - read swearing. I have some questions she forwarded to answer and she'll post them on February 16, then I have another two blogs to write - maybe three. I forget.