TV miniseries review: Sparkhouse (2002), directed by Robin Shepperd
I don’t like things to be miserable, because it’s just not my thing. I don’t find it entertaining and if it’s too depressing I get bored, as I want to be entertained not feel like I’ve been kicked and left freezing in the gutter. For all the misery Sparkhouse promised to be, inspired by Wuthering Heights as it is, I enjoyed it.
Sparkhouse is about two youngsters, Carol (Sarah Smart) and Andrew (Joseph McFadden), who have known each other since Andrew and his parents moved into the neighbouring Yorkshire farm when the kids were ten. Andrew is of a well-to-do family, his dad’s a local doctor and his mum’s a teacher in the local school. Carol lives with her sister Lisa, their dad (Alun Armstrong) is a struggling farmer and their mum (Siobhan Finneran) a cleaner, and they’re all living in poverty. Carol is a bit of a wild child, getting Andrew into trouble here and there (stealing cars, shoplifting, etc.) so logically, Andrew’s parents (Celia Imrie, Nicholas Farrell) want the two of them separated.
The couple are best friends, soulmates, deeply in love with one another, so keeping them apart doesn’t work very well. They decide to get married in secret before Andrew has to go off to university, so no one can keep them apart … and if I said anything else, it’d be too much of a spoiler. But there you go.
It was a good story, characters not quite as psycho as in the old Brontë tale (got about 100 pages left of the book now), but still damaged people. I seriously thought the whole Secret was going to be Andrew and Carol being half-siblings, but apparently not. They set it up rather well for that, though. His dad being a cheating bastard and her mum going off with Random Stranger in the pub, just because he happened to own a BMW.
Sarah Smart has actually been in Wuthering Heights – as Catherine Linton ’98. I thought she was rather pretty with those long, black curls. Joseph MacFadden kept reminding me of someone else. Who, I’m not sure. I thought maybe Matthew McFadyen, but maybe I’ve just got their surnames confused.
Plenty of scenery porn in all those shots of the moors. Emily Brontë would’ve loved it, I’m sure. Very atmospheric, especially with the old ruin, and with the weather up there I’m glad I was wrapped up snug and warm in a blanket for the first two parts. For the third one I was on the floor oiling a new IKEA stool!
Anyhoo. There were elements of Wuthering Heights there, not just that the characters were reading from it, but in the way people acted, and Carol leaving and coming back a changed woman … just like the Heathcliff she was portraying. Dog-strangling and all.
I thought I had heard that Meg (Guy’s temporary squeeze in Robin Hood 3.09, played by Holliday Grainger) was some sort of niece or in-law to Richard Armitage’s character and I thought it was Sparkhouse, and indeed it was! She was the “five years later” version of Lisa. While you can’t really tell on Richard Armitage that seven years have passed since Sparkhouse, you can definitely tell with her. She looks really young here. She still looked very young in Robin Hood as well, but sounded a bit older.
And the reason for watching it? John Standring, what a sweetheart! Sweetheart in a quiet, shy, farmboy sort of way. He cares for a wound and help with some sheep in part one, so he’s in it for about two minutes or so, but comes back more in the other two episodes.
I don’t know if it’s delight in watching Richard Armitage’s performance that has me in fits of giggles from time to time, or just the fact that John acts as comic relief in an otherwise very dark tale. “Just havin’ me tea” and him munching on a sausage, the “fancy a shag? – Uh, okay” and the Scene in the Back of the Land Rover … oh goodness me. Not to mention he’s super-sweet with the wanting to hold hands, and you wouldn’t want to get into a fistfight with him. He’s the sort of person that brings out those very feminine feelings of nurturing – you just want to take care of him! If he wants to marry you, why would you not want to accept?
I was surprised that I liked it, as, like I said, I don’t care for depressing stories with doom and gloom, but yeah, Sparkhouse is more than tolerable. Granted, I probably wouldn’t have seen it if Richard Armitage hadn’t been in it. That’s the fun part of being a fangirl, though. You get to see things you otherwise would probably never choose to see!
4 out of 5 sausages.