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Meg. Jo. Beth. Amy. These are four of the most famous names in American Literature. The names of four girls growing up in Massachusetts in the 1860’s, during the time of the civil war. These are not the names of warriors, or leaders, but those of a simple set of young women navigating the wartime years, trying to keep safe their father, their friends, and keep intact the family that meant the world to them.
The new BBC/PBS series Little Women follows these girls as they grow to womanhood, chronicling their struggles in life and of love. Adapted by Call the Midwife creator and head writer Heidi Thomas, the limited series follows the March sisters through the war and beyond, into adulthood. Starring Emily Watson as Mrs. March, Dylan Baker as Mr. March, the series also features a delightful appearance from Angela Lansbury as crotchety Aunt Josephine.
But the story centers on the sisters, and especially on Maya Hawke as headstrong, difficult Jo. Hawke walks a fine line here, making Jo as obstreperous as the character demands without ever crossing the line into unlikable. Heidi Thomas is at her best, centering the lives of the often overlooked women as she does so deftly in Call the Midwife. The script is naturalistic, dialogue from the book reworked for a modern audience. It works. The four March sisters are as relatable here as are any characters in a contemporary YA novel
But the innocence remains. The girls grow and change, betraying each other at times, and begging forgiveness at others. They fall in love, fall out of love, hurt themselves, heal others, break hearts and mend them. It’s a moving adaptation, and its three hour time span gives it more time to breathe than other adaptations have. Nothing is skipped over. Every tear is earned.
This adaptation of Little Women is sure to be a classic, watched and rewatched by this and future generations.
Little Women debuts on Masterpiece Mother’s Day, Sunday May 13th at 8:00 p.m. on KIXE Channel 9.