I did not read the book. I am not sure why I first passed on the book when I heard of it, but when I discovered there was a movie based on it...well, to be frank, there are millions of historical fiction books I can read, but very very few period dramas I can watch, so there you go.
In the three hours this movie played, I laughed ("I get perish in here."), cried, nodded my head in agreement, just went through every emotion possible. On the screen we see Jamaica and England both, from the pre-WWII years to the period just after. We see men fighting for the same thing, the same damn thing--freedom from tyranny and oppression--and yet on the homefront, the West Indians, the people of color cannot get their own freedom.
Hortense, Gilbert, and Michael--as Michael says--go from one small island to another, each island containing the same small minds. But they have big dreams and it's fulfilling in the end, watching these people--just when you think their lives are at rock bottom--fulfill those dreams. While left hanging about Queenie and Michael's lives, we at least know that Gilbert and Hortense find happiness.
But, gosh, is a long way there. Hortense is a really hard character to like. Her upbringing, her broken heart, perhaps has made her that way and if anyone can through to her it would the charming, funny, sweet Gilbert. While all the women in the movie were drooling over Michael--a cad who preys on lonely married women--Gilbert totally stole my heart. I was ready to jump into the TV screen, murder Hortense, and take him for myself, and yes, I'd make him the best damn fish and chips if that's what it took. LOL
I thought it was fascinating the way Jamaica was back then, how they were taught England was the motherland and they all thought everyone there was wealthy, with electricity in their homes, and doorbells...and it was sad to watch the people face the truth, that while they may adore the motherland, the motherland doesn't adore them. Hortense can't even teach in England. They get called names in the street. We see a lot of prejudice.
The only main player NOT immigrating from Jamaica is Queenie, a white married woman who married not for love, but lack of choice. And just when she feels dead inside, something comes along to make her feel alive. She faces a world of heartbreak and at times doesn't make the best of choices.
Long review short: Costumes: loved them. Issues brought up in the movie: racism, infidelity, loneliness, war, how demons are not "in" us, but "out there" (I'm not going to explain that one. It would spoil), shell shock or battle fatigue. The acting: impeccable, especially whoever it is that plays Queenie. It is a very thought-evoking movie with real issues that England faced during that time period. I felt it makes a fabulous tribute to those who immigrated from the West Indies, faced and overcame these issues, and made their dreams come true despite all the odds.
Do not let the three-hour length deter you. This one is worth your time.
I bought this DVD on PBS.