Mas­ter­piece: The Mak­ing of a Lady

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT -

Star­ring Ly­dia Wil­son, Li­nus Roache, Hasina Haque and James D’Arcy Sun­days at 9 p.m. PBS

out of five And with that, a po­lite mar­riage of con­ve­nience is cre­ated, and the stage is set for yet an­other lav­ishly ap­pointed English fish-out-of-wa­ter cos­tume drama in which well-mean­ing but stuffy peo­ple from dif­fer­ent sides of the class di­vide try to find a way to love one an­other. Ex­cept... well, here’s the creepy part. When Walder­hurst is called back to reg­i­men­tal duty in In­dia, he leaves Emily be­hind to tend to their huge coun­try es­tate. And not long af­ter he leaves, his nephew, Alec Os­born (James D’Arcy) shows up, In­dian-born wife Hester (Hasina Haque) in tow, declar­ing that the ab­sent hus­band has or­dered them to look af­ter his beloved wife while he’s gone. Of course, there’s chi­canery afoot. Os­born, whose thin ve­neer of aris­to­cratic gen­til­ity is un­con­vinc­ing from the out­set, is clearly a nasty char­ac­ter, and the mo­tive for his visit to the es­tate quickly be­comes clear: he’s next in the line of suc­ces­sion for the fam­ily for­tune, and if some con­ve­nient bit of mis­for­tune should pre­vent Emily (who has an­nounced, af­ter her hus­band’s de­par­ture, that she’s with child) from de­liv­er­ing a Walder­hurst heir, the whole great big pile of priv­i­leged wealth will one day be his. And in no more time than it takes to snuff the only can­dle in a 19th-cen­tury English draw­ing room, The Mak­ing of a Lady trans­forms from gen­tle ro­man­tic drama to heavy-handed sus­pense thriller. Schem­ing abounds. Sin­is­ter mis­deeds — per­haps even mur­der! — un­fold in rapid suc­ces­sion as the Os­borns and their over-the-top-evil In­dian ser­vant, Ameerah (Souad Fa­ress), move to take con­trol of the es­tate and slowly poi­son Emily with the in­ten­tion of end­ing first her preg­nancy and then, hope­fully, her life. It be­comes rather a macabre and pre­dictable ex­er­cise, and there are also times when the car­i­ca­tured por­trayal of the south Asian char­ac­ters — Ameerah in par­tic­u­lar — feels more than a bit out­dat­edly racist. But thanks in large part to Wil­son’s mea­sured por­trayal of Emily, The Mak­ing of a Lady’s bizarre se­cond half never com­pletely goes off the rails. There’ll be no spoil­ing here of whether the lady ac­tu­ally makes it, but it’s safe to say that the res­o­lu­tion of the story will leave view­ers sat­is­fied that there’s still a glim­mer of hope left be­fore the sun fi­nally sets on old-fash­ioned Bri­tish aris­toc­racy.

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