Movie Review: 'Sandition'

By John Thomas

From a distance, Charlotte (Rose Williams) sees the wheel of a carriage break free, the horses detach themselves and the carriage tip over on its side. She and her companions rush to help. Inside the carriage, Tom Parker (Kris Marshall) and his wife are dazed but unhurt. It’s only when Tom drops from the carriage to the ground that he suffers a twisted ankle. Charlotte offers her parents’ home as a place for the Parkers to recover.

In the fortnight it takes to repair the carriage and for Tom’s ankle to heal Charlotte becomes a favorite of the Parkers. They invite her to spend the summer with them in the sleepy coastal town of Sandition.

It is Tom’s grand plan to turn Sandition into a thriving tourist attraction – plans that call for funds he has yet to generate. To find money for his projects he engages the help of the famously wealthy Sandition resident, Lady Denham (Anne Reid), and Tom’s brother Sidney (Theo James).

Lady Denham watches her funds carefully – she already has family members living with her waiting to collect an inheritance. Tom has several other commitments but supports his brother as best he can.

One of Tom’s many ideas is to provide small horse drawn changing rooms in which women can change into their swimming costumes and then be rolled into the water. Later, when on an afternoon beach walk, Charlotte is shocked to find out why there are no changing rooms for men. Tom’s main project, however, is to find a resident physician to provide spa treatments to the visiting tourists.

Sidney is away when Tom, his wife and Charlotte return to Sandition. A large portrait of him occupies a prominent place in the entry of the Parker home, one that attracts Charlotte’s scant attention upon seeing it for the first time.

The charismatic Sidney draws greater attention from her when she meets him in person. He finds her as intriguing as she does him. James Stringer (Leo Suter) is the local builder who is overseeing the construction of the Parkers’ new home and proposed future projects. He and Charlotte also share numerous furtive glances.

Lady Denham and Sidney casually listen to Tom’s newest ideas. Among these proposed events are a sand-castle building competition, then a cricket match, followed by a costume ball, a summer regatta on a nearby small river and, to conclude the summer season and the fund raising efforts, a Midsummer Ball. At most of these events, James and Sidney are present as they are both members of the opposing teams in competition for winning the prize as well as Charlotte’s increasing attention.

Much of London society has been invited to the Midsummer Ball (Sidney’s contribution). Lady Denham’s ballroom (her contribution) is filled with lively music, laughing crowds and whispered conversations. Charlotte’s eyes sparkle with excitement. Of her two suitors, one  professes his great love for her and the other wraps his arms around her and passionately kisses her.

Returning to her family home, she gazes out of the carriage window at the sea, no doubt  wondering in which direction life will lead her.

This “See” eight-part PBS Masterpiece TV series is based on the unfinished novel by Jane Austen known for writing social commentaries with humor and irony. She most likely knew Charlotte’s future.


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