The British seem to LOVE the interwar years — i.e. between World Wars I and II, or 1919-1938. I’m not a Brit myself, so correct me if I’m wrong, but there are so many books, movies, and TV series that just shimmer with a sense of “this is how life Should Be” and “oh no, looming war, this is the calm before the storm.” This probably applies more to things set in the 1930s than the 1920s, but in order to avoid the standard titles you’d expect to see in this post (Brideshead Revisited, Upstairs Downstairs, and Downton Abbey), I’m including one from just-post-World War I and one from the 1920s.
I Capture the Castle (2003)
Alright, so I’ve raved about this one before, so I’ll refer you to those two posts for why you should watch this movie about a bookish, dreamy teenage girl coming of age in genteel poverty in 1930s England. Romola Garai is You Age 15-ish, Rose Byrne is at her most charming, Bill Nighy is complex, Tara Fitzgerald is hilarious, and a young Henry Cavill is super cute and not yet a jerk, and our main characters live in a crumbling castle in the English countryside. Oh, and hearts are broken.
The Forsyte Saga: To Let (2003)
I am a heretic, because I really didn’t enjoy the first of the 2000’s The Forsyte Saga adaptations (2002). Everyone was miserable, and the character I was supposed to sympathize with (Irene) left me cold and unmoved, plus I was underwhelmed by the costuming. So I was surprised to enjoy the sequel, “To Let”; I think possibly because (spoiler alert!) annoying people DIDN’T get what they wanted, and I enjoyed watching them suffer? Plus the (same) costume designer (Phoebe de Gaye, who then went on to annoy us all with The White Princess and The Spanish Princess) had a better handle on what makes 1920s dress chic.
Love in a Cold Climate (2001)
One that’s on my shortlist to rewatch and review in depth; it’s based on Nancy Mitford’s semi-autobiographical novel about growing up in a super quirky, poor yet aristocratic British family. If the idea of secret clubs hanging out in cupboards, and young women dealing with the complications that arise from having a mother known for constantly divorcing her husbands and so is known as “The Bolter” sounds good, fire this sucker up. Bonus: Rosamund Pike!
The Cazalets (2001)
If you love sprawling, many interrelated characters à la Downton Abbey, you’ll love this. It’s based on a series of novels that tell the story of the title family, which revolve around the family’s country home in Sussex. Rupert struggles with complications arising from a new marriage, Hugh (Hugh Bonneville) deals with the trauma of World War I, while Edward cheats on wife Villy (Lesley Manville of Harlots) with Anna Chancellor and others.
Jumping down the class spectrum and at the top of my must-watch list comes Lilies, the story of a three sisters from a working-class Liverpool family. One gets married and comes to regret it, one falls for her well-to-do employer, and one becomes a corset saleswoman, all while dealing with their crotchety father and suffering-from-WWI-PTSD brother.
What is it with the Brits and the interwar years?