By Sadie Robinson
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The English—an overdone Western with some redeeming features

This article is over 1 years, 5 months old
If you can get back some ridiculous, wooden dialogue and shallow character development, you might enjoy the BBC’s new drama
Issue 2829
A woman in Stetson Hat and period Western clothing sits on a horse

Emily Blunt as Cornelia in The English

The English is basically a romance with a lot of bloody killing and beating along the way.

It’s 1890 and posh English woman Lady Cornelia Locke is in America looking to avenge the death of her son. The first episode sees her sort of rescue a Native American, Eli, who is tied up after a beating. He then rescues her from the threat of rape and murder, and so it begins.

If you are a fan of Westerns maybe you will like the over the top melodrama. But I found it grating. Westerns are about cliches but surely there’s a line somewhere?

There are a lot of struggles over land and money and farming. There are many horses and sunsets. The repeated, seemingly senseless, killings and tortures can feel confusing if your attention happens to, as is likely, wander a bit.

The dialogue is often wooden and at times ridiculous. I think Eli’s brief, meaningful-sounding words are supposed to enhance his smouldering persona. But a lot of the time, I just wanted people to talk in actual sentences.

If you can get past wondering, “Would anyone actually talk like this?” and, “Would this really happen?” then there are things to like.

It’s good to see women killing people in a system where men very much hold the upper hand and women’s lives are brutal. But Cornelia still has to have a cry every time she blows someone apart, just to show she is still feminine.

At first I was irritated at watching what felt like caricatures of people, but the characters do actually develop. The love story did end up drawing me in, even though it felt completely predictable from the very start.

But things don’t work out in the way that the viewer might expect, which is a positive. And there is an unexpected development with Cornelia’s character, despite the fact that the “plot” this is linked to felt a bit thin.

Bizarrely I would probably recommend The English. But be prepared to cringe.


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