The new gem of British television is an adaptation of an autobiographical novel by a midwife who practiced her trade in the 1950’s. Following the success of its first season, a second was announced but prior to its airing, there was a Christmas special bridging the two seasons. If anything this was a charming, quaint piece of nostalgia.
Cold winter days have settled in and with it, the Sisters of Nonnatus House are diligent in their prayers while preparing for the Christmas holiday. Faith is something young Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) has no clear distinction of. She was unprepared for many of the situations that would test her fragile belief in humanity before taking this post. Unexpectedly, Jenny is drawn into the mystery involving an elderly woman who appears to have no one caring for her well-being. Newly married Chummy (Miranda Hart) has her own set of problems to deal with trying to put together a Christmas pageant fit for political officials. But all of the hustle-bustle is put on hold when Cynthia (Bryony Hannah) finds an abandoned baby on the convent’s doorstep inspiring everyone to come together to find this child’s family.
For all its “gritty” storytelling, Heidi Thomas can sure write a poignant story. Granted a setting at Christmas always infuses us with the feeling of warmth, happiness and love (unless you are Julian Fellowes who prefers to shatter viewers! Then proceed to rip our hearts out. I don’t think that’s too harsh… yes?), which are three intact elements in this hour-long special. Involving a child to parallel the birth of Christ isn’t inventive though its more the way the script tells the story that makes this so good – all of the character’s pull viewers in, inviting us into their lives as they try to do good and help the people in the poor communities they serve. No matter what they come across or experience, it’s always obvious how far their kind hearts are willing to go. This is what makes the otherwise serious-natured series work well.
A great deal happened in series one leading to secrets of Jenny’s past life coming to the surface, piquing our curiosity and Chummy entering marital bliss. Nothing is dropped or a let-down in this “bridge” that took fans into the newest installments of series two. Along with the help of fellow midwife Trixie (Helen George), the girl’s continue to learn from their superior’s – professionally and personally. Most of the characterizations are put on hold to focus on the mystery of the baby – as well as Chummy’s amusing attempts to put together a “perfect” children’s nativity play with a group of unruly kids. The actors understanding of their character seems a marvelous use of film; each lady gives their respective character “life” and it makes the series more human, and even, comical; whether it’s the crazy antics of Sister Monica Joan, Chummy’s genuine nature or not being able to shake the feeling that Sister Bernadette, the youngest of the nun’s longs for life outside the convent, there is never a dull moment.
Boasting a fabulous setting – seriously each time I watch this, the sense of nostalgia creeps up unexpectedly with the authenticity of it all – and intriguing stories, Call the Midwife is worth giving some time to. Only expect to be patient with it. It doesn’t earn the same feelings as its current television “companions” such as the immediate adoration of Downton Abbey or the charms of The Paradise but it has a voice that is no less important. This episode proves the reasons why.
(Parental concerns: Two births take place [we see the baby being born in both instances], one involving a young, unmarried teen. Depravity is prominently featured; including living conditions and life-threatening health conditions [one woman’s shoes are “stuck” onto her feet]. Call the Midwife is rated PG.)