Call the Midwife: Christmas Special (2012) BBC Review
The new gem of British television is an adaptation of an autobiographical novel by a midwife who practiced her trade in the 1950’s. In the aftermath of season one’s success, a second was commissioned but prior to its debut, a Christmas special bridges the gap.
Cold winter days settle in, and with it, Nonnatus House remains diligent in prayer as they prepare for Christmas. Faith is something young Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine) has no clear distinction of. Before this post, she didn’t expect so many of the situations to test her fragile belief in human nature. One case that tests Jenny draws her to the mystery of an elderly woman who appears to have no one to care for her.
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. All of the preparation is put on hold when Cynthia (Bryony Hannah) finds an abandoned baby on the convent’s doorstep. This inspires everyone at Nonnatus’ to find this child’s family.
For all its “gritty” storytelling, Heidi Thomas does 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 rip our hearts out). These are three elements you’ll find 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. It’s the good hearts of these characters (who exemplify good deeds) that sets this otherwise serious series apart.
A great deal happens in series which leads to secrets of Jenny’s past life. This piques our curiosity and then there’s Chummy who enters marital bliss. No one is dropped in this “bridge” that takes right into series two. All of the girl’s, including Trixie (Helen George), continue to learn from their superior’s – professionally and personally. Most of the characterization is put on hold to focus on the mystery of the baby; plus 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 have the same feeling such as Downton Abbey or the charms of The Paradise but it has a voice that is no less important. This episode proves the reasons why.
(Content: Two birth scenes take place, one involves a young, unmarried teen. There’s often depravity; including living conditions and life-threatening health conditions [one woman’s shoes are “stuck” onto her feet]. Call the Midwife is rated PG.)