Birdsong

Series 1 - Episode 1

Radio Times
Review by:
David Butcher

Sebastian Faulks’s beloved novel finally makes it to the screen in a captivating production scripted by Abi Morgan (of The Hour and The Iron Lady). Once, the likes of Ralph Fiennes and Daniel Day-Lewis were attached to movie versions, but in the end it’s rising star Eddie Redmayne who takes the role of Stephen Wraysford, the mysterious lieutenant swallowed up by the First World War but treasuring the summer he spent with a wealthy French family before the war — and the affair it led to.

Morgan’s adaptation flips smoothly between the two settings, the elegant sunlit world of pre-war Amiens and the khaki-grey misery of the trenches. It looks beautiful when it should and feels appallingly ugly when it should, the measured pace interrupted by flashes of horror and later, passion. The latter comes courtesy of Clémence Poésy as quietly luminous Isabelle, trapped in an empty marriage with an older man.

Crucially, she and Redmayne click: you believe that beneath their stolen glances there’s a world of buried struggle.

About this programme

1/2. First of a two-part drama based on Sebastian Faulks' novel about two lovers drawn together then torn apart by the First World War. In the France of 1910, Englishman Stephen Wraysford arrives to work at the textile factory of the Azaire family, only to fall desperately in love with his host's wife Isabelle. Before long, the pair begin an illicit and all-consuming affair, with huge consequences for them both. Eddie Redmayne (My Week with Marilyn) and Clemence Poesy (the Harry Potter films) star as the lovers, with support from Joseph Mawle, Richard Madden and Matthew Goode. Adapted by Abi Morgan, writer of The Hour and The Iron Lady.

Cast and crew

Cast

Stephen Wraysford
Eddie Redmayne
Isabelle
Clemence Poesy
Jack Firebrace
Joseph Mawle
Jeanne
Marie-Josee Croze
Capt Gray
Matthew Goode
Rene Azaire
Laurent Lafitte
Capt Weir
Richard Madden
Monsieur Berard
Patrice Thibaud
Mme Berard
Isabelle Gomez
Lisette Azaire
Clara Grebot
Gregoire Azaire
Maxime Roussel
Pte Douglas
George MacKay
Evans
Simon Nehan
Shaw
Daniel Cerqueira
Turner
Sean McKenzie
Pte Tipper
Thomas Turgoose
Pte Brennan
Rory Keenan
Tyson
Paul Rattray
RSM Price
Nick Moss
Lebrun
Mate Szabo
Pte Byrne
Matthew Aubrey
Marguerite
Piroska Molnar

Crew

Director
Philip Martin
Executive Producer
Juliette Howell
Producer
Lynn Horsford
Writer
Abi Morgan
Categories
Drama