I streamed this movie last night on Netflix and I was spellbound watching it. I watched all three episodes in one sitting. I have not read the book but it is now on my list of books to read even though I usually stay away from books that contain such poverty and tragedy. The story takes place in the 1830’s in England. Sixteen year old Cissie Brodie and her siblings lose their parents to cholera. This is how the story begins. What I found a little strange during the beginning scenes is that none of the six children cry or display any deeper sense of loss over just losing both parents. Instead they seem instantly resigned to the fact that they are now orphans. That is not believable at all.
Cissie and her siblings are all then thrown out of their house. Cissie refuses to go to the work house where life is even more grim and the family will most likely be separated. Determined to keep the family together, She moves the family into a cave on the side of a hill on the fells. A poor local carpenter named Matthew Turnbull is in love with Cissie and he helps her make life as comfortable as possible for the family in the cave. Matthew brings what little furniture they have into the cave and whatever else she needs. Cissie is very brave and resourceful. She has to look after the youngest boy so she goes in search for jobs for the other siblings. Two of the boys work for a very short period of time down in the mines. One of the boys is only eleven years old and the other is 14. The mines is a dark cruel place and they are not earning enough to keep the family from going hungry. Matthew, out of his love for Cissie, manages to find other work for them. The youngest girl gets a job as a laundry girl and another sister gets a job as a live in maid.
Tracy Whitwell who is now a playwright stars as Cissie Brodie.
Cissie and her siblings standing at the opening to the cave that became their home.
Cissie and her family on the fells.
Cissie and Matthew Turnbull
Matthew Turnbull is very deeply in love with Cissie, but he is burdened with taking care of his elderly parents. He wants to be with Cissie but all the reserve money that his family had was spent by his father to keep the family afloat over the years. Therefore, Matthew marries a mill owners daughter named Rose for the money it would bring to his family and help to Cissie.
The very wealthy Fischel family. Lord Fischel with his children Isabelle and Clive.
This where the story gets even more interesting. Isabelle is an evil witch of a person. Clive is basically a good person, but he is not strong enough or self confident enough in his youth to not get drawn into his sister’s evil doings. One afternoon the brother and sister duo come upon Cissie and her youngest brother. It is not the first time that the foursome cross paths. Isabelle instigates a fight between herself and Cissie. Clive breaks them up but Cissie and Clive accidently fall on the ground with Clive landing on top of Cissie. Clive is getting ready to get up when Isabelle goads Clive into raping Cissie. Cissie’s little brother goes to get help and runs into Lord Fischel who is just in time to see Clive finishing up raping Cissie as Isabelle watches.
Lord Fischel is ashamed of his children and sends Clive away to sea immediately. A few months later Lord Fischel spots Cissie who is big with child. With the assistance of his man-servant Lord Fischel realizes that Cissie’s pregnancy is a result of his son raping her. Immediately Lord Fischel recognizes the baby as his grandson and wants to raise the boy himself, away from the destitute life that Cissie lives. When the baby is born though Cissie cannot part with him for any amount of money. Lord Fischel eventually gets his way through blackmail.
Clive returns to England years later when his son Richard is four years old and being raised by his father and Isabelle. Clive is still ashamed of what he did to Cissie and does everything he can to make it up to her and returns their child to her against his father’s wishes. For the first time in Clive’s life he defies his family to do what is right. Of course Cissie doesn’t trust him at first but Clive does everything in his power to show Cissie that she has nothing to fear from him. Clive really wants to help her and as he begins to understand what type of woman Cissie is he begins to admire her, which makes him feel even worse for what he did to her.
Matthew Turnbull becomes a very wealthy man after his father-in-law passes away. He is still in love with Cissie and his wife Rose gets the short end of the stick. Rose knows that her husband’s heart is with Cissie Brodie. Matthew will drop everything on a moments notice to be there for Cissie.
Clive Fischel is portrayed by actor Edward Rawle-Hicks. Clive is a very interesting character because even though he committed a heinous act, he does have a conscience and knows that he did something horribly wrong. Clive is immediately repentant. This aspect of Clive’s personality is what must be taken into consideration when you see how the movie ends. I read a lot of reviews by other women who wore appalled at how this movie ended and as a woman myself I understand it. However, having paid attention to the entire story and watched Clive’s transformation from someone who cannot seem to stand up for what he believes in to a man returning from sea understanding what he did and doing all that he can think of to make Cissie happy, I cannot paint Clive with the same broad brush that I would a career criminal. I won’t reveal the ending for those who have not seen this movie yet, but it is a surprise.
There are lessons in this movie about forgiveness and how important it is not to live in the past, hanging onto things that can destroy you. I will be purchasing the book by Catherine Cookson.