reviewed by Carmen Ferreiro Esteban
Usually, in this blog, I review movies or TV shows I like. But this time I’ll make an exception because the series I watched and didn’t like happened to be a Masterpiece Classic production.
Two weeks ago, I raved about three of Masterpiece’s recent series and highly recommended my readers to watch them. So I feel a moral obligation to review Any Human Heart, the new series that will run February 13-27 on PBS, even if I found it terribly disappointing, in case you felt compelled to watch it upon my previous recommendation.
To begin with I find the whole premise of the story pretentious and vapid. Take this sentence, for instance, we hear at the beginning of the first episode: “The things that happen to us make us different people.” As my daughter would say, “Duh!”
These are many other reasons why Any Human Heart didn’t work for me. Here are some of them in no particular order.
I can’t relate to the main character. He is totally self-centered and self-pitying. He treats women poorly. He takes them when it pleases him and behaves as if he were entitled to their attentions. You could argue that he is an antihero. But for me if I don’t have a connection with the protagonist, I don’t care about the story.
The story is full of clichés and stereotypes. When well-known writers, (like Hemingway, Ian Fleming, Virginia Woolf), or famous people (like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor), make cameo appearances, they behave like caricatures of themselves, cardboard cutouts wound up to move and talk. They also seem somehow unrelated to the story.
The plot line is unrealistic. The protagonist decides to be a writer, and just like that, without any hint of struggle, he gets an agent even though he has not even started to work on the novel he is pitching. Then, as soon as he finish it, his agent sells it to a publisher and boom! it is an instant success.
Okay, you may think I am jealous because I am a struggling writer. But, because I am a writer, I know from experience how difficult it’s to publish a book. Never mind to get people to read it. And, in my defense, I must say I love Castle.
Castle, you may remember from my review last year, (https://www.notreadyforgrannypanties.com/2010/04/castle-abc.html) is a handsome writer who helps a New Yorker pretty detective to solve crimes. The series approach to what it means to be a writer is also highly unrealistic. Yet, I love the show Castle because it’s funny and doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Any Human Heart, on the other hand, does. Takes itself seriously, I mean. Starting with the title, derived, as Laura Linn tells us in the introduction, from Henry James’ line, “Never say you know the last word about any human heart” and continuing with the voice-overs that punctuate the story as we see an older version of the protagonist going through his diaries and memorabilia from the story we are watching. A literary device, the older wiser man reminiscing over his life, I must confess, I despise.
Of course, tastes are personal and you may love this series. So please, don’t take my word for it, and give it a try if you’re so inclined. The cast is excellent, for one, and the settings and costumes exquisitely perfect, as it’s always the case in Masterpiece Theater.
And whether you agree or disagree with my review, I would love to hear from you.