"Some obligations can't be passed on": Watching A Place To Call Home

Mel O'Drama

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Episodes Six to Ten... continued






George has been an understated character all the way through. I like how consistent he’s been in terms of being placid and calm while growing inwardly. Proving that he gets George completely, Bevan Lee gives him the most beautiful epitaph: ”His whole life proved that decency is not a weakness."

Sarah and Elizabeth have had the most profound and significant journey. This is something of which the series is acutely aware. It goes back to the very first episode. Their one-to-ones are the tent pegs of the series. From Elizabeth coming to the cottage with her chequebook in the first episode through her dare for Sarah to live at Ash Park for three months and that post-dinner “manipulative matriarch and scheming Jewess” cards on the table conversation to their reflection on their relationship in the Season Four finale. It would all be far less meaningful without these.

There’s been more progress here. Elizabeth has willingly attended a Shabbat and Chanukah. Sarah has asked Elizabeth to guide her in being Mistress of Ash Park (Sarah coming to terms with arranging menus and whatnot in light of her new marriage has been reminiscent of Krystle in Dynasty’s First Season).


In the final episode, Elizabeth asks to speak to Sarah alone and they dismiss George before getting down to business. Elizabeth hands Sarah some papers:
Elizabeth said:
I was given these yesterday. They’re results of my tests. It’s why I popped home after Christmas.
The look on Marta Dusseldorp’s face as she reads speaks volumes. And the chemistry between the two women is as alive as always.

The ghost of their earliest meetings hovers over their scenes, and it makes this one alive with history and depth. The very fact that Elizabeth has chosen Sarah of all people to be her confidante and trusts her to help is incredibly meaningful:
Elizabeth said:
What point in George knowing. He would cancel this wonderful opportunity in Israel to hover here anticipating a death that will come when it comes… Sarah, I watched Douglas fade. I’m trying to spare George the same. And David. Let him remember Granny as she is. This [letter] is to give George when I’m gone.
Sarah said:
If you go.
Elizabeth said:
Evasion doesn’t become you. You’re the only one who’ll know of this until it’s impossible to conceal.
Sarah said:
Promise one thing: if you’re clearly fading and feel that we can reach you, let us know.
Elizabeth said:
If I’m absolutely sure. The coward in me, oh, hopes for an attack in my sleep. To close one’s eyes and simply not wake.
Sarah said:
Hard to imagine a world without you.
Elizabeth said:
It’s harder for me. [they laugh] …I will miss you. I’m not talking of Israel.
Sarah said:
And I you [she cries]
Elizabeth said:
That’s why I’m telling you now. So that you can be composed by tonight. And, selfishly, so I can see one pair of eyes at midnight that knows the truth.
Sarah said:
I may well cry.
Elizabeth said:
Excuse it as tears of joy. Dear Sarah. I love you.
Sarah said:
I love you.
It’s a conversation that would have been unimaginable just a short time ago. And it's straight from the heart. It’s been quite a journey for us and them. They do indeed look into each other’s eyes at midnight, and both are smiling. Because of the genuine warmth between the actresses, their performances quite possibly influenced by the genuine ending ahead offscreen as well as on, I found myself moved to tears by this scene.

Elizabeth had also reminded Sarah that she was given a short time to live years before, and “the ticker” had done well to bring her this far. Given this, and her wish to go in her sleep, it’s poignant to learn from the end text that:
Elizabeth passed in her sleep in 1963. Her chosen epitaph was “Life is a blessing. To die fulfilled an even greater one.”
Which got my face wet all over again.







continued...
 

Mel O'Drama

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Episodes Six to Ten... continued





After the final montage showing the 1960 characters about their business, with each accompanied by text telling us what happened to them later in life, we cut to the very final scene of the series. It’s a courageous choice, because it harks directly back to one of the series’ most universally unpopular moments. In present day, we move across a wall of framed pictures of characters from the series, to find 104 year old Sarah on her deathbed, surrounded by three people who we learn are Leah, David and Olivia. As the camera pans across the room, Sarah speaks her last words:
Sarah said:
We met on a ship, you know. It all began on a ship. We are the survivors of that voyage, Olivia. You, soon, the last. Dear Leah. Thank you. [she looks at David] My darling boy. Who’d guess so many would love my story. What a wonderful journey.
The camera pans beyond the bed to Sarah’s bedside table. Next to framed pictures of George and someone else - René? - sits a book:



And so, Olivia’s granddaughter’s name is the last one we see. And now we are able to be told her surname.

This could have gone either way, but I LOVED it. This time the flash forward is appropriate and chronological. Especially since the text in the montage has taken us through the characters lives and deaths up to this point. It’s perfect, and almost feels predictable because the threads leading to this point have been so carefully laid.

Not only this, but it has given a scene that I loathed a genuine meaning. Don’t get me wrong, I still could do without Samantha with her Renault Mégane that blasts out trendy pop music, her MacBook and permanently ringing phone. But in a broader context, it foreshadows this final scene and actually gives that horrifically jarring Season Two flash-forward a legitimacy that will make it more interesting and perhaps even enjoyable on a second time round with the series.

While I’m not generally a fan of endings being too neat and knowing too much, it seems that Bevan Lee did this with the aim of giving proper closure to his characters. For us to know this is truly the end. Desperate Housewives did something similar, but it feels less twee and contrived here. The fact that the series is set in the past perhaps gives us permission to be given a few little addenda to complete the story. And since - Sarah aside - we learn about the characters fates over images of their 1960 selves, it manages to tick the "life goes on" boxes at the same time as giving closure. We haven't seen it all, and the lines of text we're given are far from the full story. There is still much unknown, which helps the series to resonate. The tone of the information also feels right. Like the series itself, it's a little romantic and a little cinematic and speaks of tragedy met with love.

And so ends my journey proper through A Place To Call Home. It’s been wonderful. Short enough to be almost perfectly formed. Long enough to get into my psyche. The characters are quite unforgettable, and this joins a very short list of TV series that have impacted on me profoundly in my adult viewing life. It’s a certainty that I’ll be exploring many of the actors’ interviews and behind the scenes information about the series in depth in the days ahead. And who knows where that may lead.
 

Mel O'Drama

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It’s a certainty that I’ll be exploring many of the actors’ interviews and behind the scenes information about the series in depth in the days ahead. And who knows where that may lead.

Well, it's begun. As well as starting to watch some of the many official APTCH videos on their YouTube channel, I've discovered a few other gems.

Naturally, Noni Hazlehurst was the first actor from the series I started searches for. She was a revelation in APTCH and not being familiar with her ahead of watching I knew next to nothing about her career other than the fact that she seems very well-respected and she was on Play School.

So this tribute for her at the 2016 Logies , to celebrate her induction into the Hall Of Fame was exactly what I was looking for. Lots of familiar faces introducing and in the audience. It's even kicked off by Noni's good friend and Play School playmate... the evil Dr Milson:

And following right on from it here's her acceptance of the Hall Of Fame award. The description calls it "incredible", and it's not wrong:
 

JamesF

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What a beautiful, thought provoking final write up. Reliving it again through you actually made me well up and the outcomes for Doris and Elizabeth had me in floods when I first watched.

I'll comment more another time once I've reflected but I agree with pretty much all you said, including the bad (aka Henry - your Draxl research made me positively queasy). I never, ever expected that a period drama the BBC used as daytime filler would have the impact on me that it did.

And I'll add Noni's award win to my watch list this week. Like you, I'd never heard of her. I'm always amazed to discover mature Australian actresses who I don't recognise from SAD, H&A or Neighbours. :lol:
 

Mel O'Drama

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What a beautiful, thought provoking final write up. Reliving it again through you actually made me well up
Oh, thank you. I'm glad it's brought back some good memories of the series for you.


your Draxl research made me positively queasy
I had to take a Dramamine myself. :lol:


I never, ever expected that a period drama the BBC used as daytime filler would have the impact on me that it did.
Oh, interesting. I knew it was shown on BBC since it says so on the DVD box, but I wasn't sure how it was scheduled here.

Did you first discover it when it was being shown on TV? And can you remember how you found it and got into it? I'd love to know more.



And I'll add Noni's award win to my watch list this week.
It's worth a watch.

Oh - and if you've got a spare six minutes and aren't offended by blue language, this video is worth a look to see a different side to Noni. It really made me laugh, but it definitely comes with a profanity alert. She was questioned about making that video on Q&A, which looks a lot like the UK's Question Time. And she gave an excellent response about her reasons for doing it. Though the Conservative guy on the panel just couldn't seem to understand that the video wasn't aimed at children.


Like you, I'd never heard of her. I'm always amazed to discover mature Australian actresses who I don't recognise from SAD, H&A or Neighbours. :lol:
Ha ha. Same here. She did say in one of the videos (I think her Logie acceptance speech) that she's been notoriously picky, which means there were times when she didn't work. Maybe she turned down all the 80s soaps at the time. :D

This evening I watched a 1985 film of Noni's called Fran as I was curious to see her in something else and the film is free on Amazon Prime. She played a very troubled character. It's not the easiest of watches. Quite dated in some ways, and it took some dark turns. I read afterwards that it started out as a film for Community Services about the troubles of being a single mother, and it made more sense. But it was interesting to see Noni in a different role, and she was certainly unrecognisable from Elizabeth Bligh.
 

Mel O'Drama

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Oh - and I watched the alternative Season Two finale this evening.

Even though I knew it was only the last minutes, I decided to watch the entire episode to get the full effect. I was surprised how much of the dialogue I could remember, and how it feels like no time has passed since I was actually at the end of Season Two for real. Well, I suppose it is only just over three weeks.

It felt very exciting when the final montage was different. Weirdly, it also felt unexpected, even though I knew that was the reason I was watching. When George walked in and saw Regina smirking as she sat alone at the head of the table, I wanted to do a double-take. And then Anna set fire to Andrew's letter, which completely changed the context of the next scene which had Olivia telling James how happy she was. And then Carolyn accepted Jack's ring (that didn't take long). And Regina cried as George rode out on horseback. And Sarah and René ended up together (which now feels quite wrong).

And then "The End" appeared on the screen above the aerial shot of Elizabeth being driven out of Ash Park. If no more episodes had been made, and the Season Six finale hadn't spoilt me for the perfect ending, I think I'd have been quite satisfied with this as an ending to a short but perfect series. I'd certainly have been left with a lot of questions and thoughts would be racing round my head with all those possibilities.
 

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Did you first discover it when it was being shown on TV? And can you remember how you found it and got into it? I'd love to know more.
I did indeed - I was headed down for Christmas with the family and knew there'd be chunks of time with not much going on so was looking for something to binge. I don't remember exactly but I saw something in passing about APTCH in the paper, looked it up online and saw that it was right up my street. So I worked through the first two seasons that were on iplayer and waited eagerly each year for the next. Funnily and completely unexpectedly, my mother got caught up in it through being in the room when I was watching (not really her scene) and for the next few years it became a Christmas "thing".

Oh - and if you've got a spare six minutes and aren't offended by blue language, this video is worth a look to see a different side to Noni. It really made me laugh, but it definitely comes with a profanity alert. She was questioned about making that video on Q&A, which looks a lot like the UK's Question Time. And she gave an excellent response about her reasons for doing it. Though the Conservative guy on the panel just couldn't seem to understand that the video wasn't aimed at children.
Oh I know this very well - sent it to a friend of mine having very relevant challenges with her child :lol: . I'd never seen that Q&A though, absolutely brilliant. I burst out laughing from the first question onwards, it's like a Chris Morris satire.

I'll be adding Fran to my watch list, noting Karl Kennedy is also doing his thing in it! I've been watching a fairly bleak documentary on The Yorkshire Ripper so I'm obviously in a serious watching phase this week. Must be the autumnal shift.
 

Mel O'Drama

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I was headed down for Christmas with the family and knew there'd be chunks of time with not much going on so was looking for something to binge. I don't remember exactly but I saw something in passing about APTCH in the paper, looked it up online and saw that it was right up my street. So I worked through the first two seasons that were on iplayer and waited eagerly each year for the next. Funnily and completely unexpectedly, my mother got caught up in it through being in the room when I was watching (not really her scene) and for the next few years it became a Christmas "thing".
That's a great story. I love when series have certain associations through how we discovered them, and who we watched them with. How lovely that you and your mother shared the viewing.


Oh I know this very well - sent it to a friend of mine having very relevant challenges with her child :lol: .
Ha ha. I'm sure it was appreciated.


I'd never seen that Q&A though, absolutely brilliant. I burst out laughing from the first question onwards, it's like a Chris Morris satire.
Isn't it? It's great to see that side of Noni. She's so erudite and doesn't seem up for taking crap from anyone.


I'll be adding Fran to my watch list, noting Karl Kennedy is also doing his thing in it!
Oh my. I hadn't realised that was him. Though in my defence I'd long since stopped watching Neighbours regularly by the time the Kennedys arrived and he was hidden beneath a very thick beard in Fran. It's an interesting role for him and certainly a far cry from Doctor Karl.


I've been watching a fairly bleak documentary on The Yorkshire Ripper so I'm obviously in a serious watching phase this week. Must be the autumnal shift.
 

Mel O'Drama

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Thank you for this wonderful and detailed review, it felt like reading a book (and a tabloid with Henry articles haha) :love8:
And thanks for sharing the ride, Willie. It's been fun to have you along on the APTCH road trip.

 

Mel O'Drama

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Oh - and watching some APTCH interviews on YouTube, I've realised I've been mispronouncing Brett Climo's surname all these years. I've been pronouncing the "i" as in "Lima". Turns out he says it like in "Climb".
 

Willie Oleson

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I've been pronouncing the "i" as in "Lima".
Me too, but Clymo sounds definitely more Australian, so maybe we should have known.

I find New Year’s Eve downright depressing with all its hope and reflection
Absolutely. I just don't get that make-believe cheerfulness. Maybe it was still kind of exciting when I was growing up, but now every year is just another year.
So yes I totally understand that the NYE scene/series finale feels like a double whammy.

The what-happens-in-the-future information reminds me of Six Feet Under, it's a guaranteed tearjerker. Even if all the information is positive and uplifting, I'd still cry.
It feels as if the characters abandon me, because I know what happens to them but I can't see how it develops (those missing 95 seasons!)
 

Mel O'Drama

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Delayed reaction, Willie. Sorry about that. I read your post on Thursday and meant to reply later, but once it disappeared from new posts I completely neglected to do so.


Me too, but Clymo sounds definitely more Australian, so maybe we should have known.
It's kind of the opposite of Leila Hayes. For some reason I've always instinctively pronounced it Leela (which it turns out is right). But in recent years I've sometimes wavered and wondered if I should be saying Layla. Or Lie-la.


Absolutely. I just don't get that make-believe cheerfulness. Maybe it was still kind of exciting when I was growing up, but now every year is just another year.
So yes I totally understand that the NYE scene/series finale feels like a double whammy.
There's so much expectation around New Year. And New Year's Day is definitely on a par with the morning after a favourite series has ended. There's so much anticipation about the ending, and once it's happened that's it. No wonder New Year turned out to be ideal for an ABBA song about the grey morning and confetti on the floor.



The what-happens-in-the-future information reminds me of Six Feet Under, it's a guaranteed tearjerker.
I've heard so many good things about SFU. I really must watch it one of these days.



It feels as if the characters abandon me, because I know what happens to them but I can't see how it develops (those missing 95 seasons!)
Yes - there's a whole lot of creative fun that can be had imagining how the characters got to the points we were shown. So many gaps to fill in. I can understand why some fans are inspired to create fanfics, even though personally I'm happy to simply let my mind wander from time to time.
 
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