Set during World War II, The Cazalets is based around the extremely privileged lives of the Cazalet family and their large estate, Home Place. Throughout the six episodes, we witness the changes and sacrifices made by the three generations of Cazalets as they are transformed by the surrounding war; a war that forced the entirety of the wealthy family to permanently hold up residence in their summer home in the country to avoid the brutal attacks of enemy forces.
If a time machine were to crash through the window of my student accommodation and throw me through time back to 2001, I can guarantee I would abuse this power to watch The Cazalets during its original broadcast. Renowned for my passionate love for the hit series Downtown Abbey, BBC’s televised adaptation of a top book series was right up my street and I was hooked from the very start; and this was not just because Downtown’s very own Earl of Grantham played a starring role as Hugh Cazalet.
Despite its short stint with six episodes in its one season period, BBC did not fail when adapting Elizabeth Jane Howard’s drama novels, leaving this book enthusiast eager to grab a copy of them herself. I can assure many a lover of period dramas that by the end of this one seasoned show that you’ll find yourself looking up ways to listen to the radio broadcast to get your Cazalet fix. Particularly as it has far more seasons than its television counterpart.
The series introduces a range of wealthy, spoilt, characters that the viewer will most definitely find themselves connecting with once the first episode of the series has passed; purely because the first episode takes some getting to use to considering the over the top use of stereotypes to introduce the trivial troubles that the upper class family have to encounter. However, all wealthy “I have too much money for this ghastly war” troubles aside, there are far deeper issues embedded within these characters’ lives that kept me watching throughout. From adultery to cancer, and from snobbish outlooks on sex to drunken incestuous passes, there is enough drama that there is never a second of this series that you’re left disappointed with the storyline. Each character has their own moment to shine in the dramatic light and it makes the series that more enjoyable.
Throughout the entirety of the season, it was difficult to not connect emotionally with the characters and their own personal dramas so much so that I was soon forgetting the first episode that was portrayed like a satire to mock the upper classes. Such a connection had me yearning for a continuation of the series considering only the first two novels were used in this adaptation leaving plenty of room to delve deeper into the family’s lives.
What I would give just to enter the world of the Cazalets and follow the family as they continue to change and learn how to embrace new lives that aren’t purely focused on their self-worth both personally and financially.
It may have taken a while for me to get into, but The Cazalets is definitely a series that I enthuse many drama lovers to get their hands on now that it is available on DVD for the first time. It’s a worthy addition to any collection and makes for the perfect entertainment for any weather so it’s not just a safety buy for those rainy days. If anything, you’ll find yourself envying the estate this family is able to escape to every summer whilst you’re stuck inside without such luxuries.
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Anna Chancellor, Stephen Dillane
DVD Release Date: 23rd March 2015