Birdsong is a WWI period drama and adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’ novel, Birdsong. This 2012 mini-series aired on BBC One.
When the show opens, we are introduced to Stephen Wraysford (Eddie Redmayne). We get to see Stephen as an ordinary man that is seeking a business venture, before the war. An then Stephen that is a cold, detached French WWI Lieutenant, who is in charge of overseeing a stratagem devised by the British that would destroy the German battalion.
It’s 1916 and the British engineers are hard work digging the endless tunnels that will lead them to the German pit. Little do they know, the Germans are not as credulous as the British thought they to be. When Stephen arrives at the excavation site, he witnesses a fatality that occurred down in the tunnels, which only had one surviving tunneler, Jack Firebrace (Joseph Mawle, Ripper Street).
Stephen happens upon Firebrace asleep while he is on guard duty. He becomes very upset with him, even after Firebrace explains that he just found out about his son’s illness. Stephen is apathetic towards him and later cantankerously court martialed him.
Stephen is ordered by Captain Gray (Matthew Goode, Good Wife) to join the others in the tunnel. He reluctantly agrees to do as he is ordered, but is only faced with a life threatening injury and left to die in the tunnels. Firebrace finds Stephen and rescues him so that he can be taken to a hospital for treatment.
All the while, Stephen is reliving the summer of 1910, at which time he was residing with Rene’ Azaire (Laurent Lafitte), and his wife, Isabelle (Clemence Poesy). He has a short-lived love afffair with Isabelle and he falls deeply in love with her.
Although, Stephen was not expected to survive his injuries, he is soon released from the Abbeville hospital and offered a desk job, but prideful Stephen was having none of that. He immediatly agrees to return to his unit, which was currently heading to Amiens. It does not take Stephen very long to find Isabelle and is shocked to find out that she returned to her abusive husband.
After two years of tunneling, Firebrace and he are met with yet another disaster underground. This time they are trapped together and Firebrace is severely injured. Stephen has become a different person and has found that he truly respects and admires Firebrace as a human being. Firebrace helps Stephen to escape death, yet again.
Will Stephen and Isabelle reunite or is it their fate to never meet again?
This riveting mini-series is a must see. Even though Stephen is a harsh, cold man at the beginning of the series, his persona soon begins to soften. They always say “war can truly change a man”, I guess that saying is true and that change can be seen in Stephen. The 1900’s war scene was absolutly perfect for this show. The bleached out palette of colors were beautifully enveloped in the scene.
If you like war movies, romance, drama, and heart break you will love this mini-series. Just keep a box of tissue on hand because you will surely need it. Eddie Redmayne and Joseph Mawle are gifted actors and did a superb job bringing their characters to life. The flashbacks feel into place perfectly with Stephen’s fever and hallucination contingency. Before you check out the Therory Of Everything, watch Eddie Redmayne’s brilliant performance in this book adaptation of the novel, Birdsong. This mini-series deserves a 7.5 out of 10.