'The Honorable Woman'
(Maggie Gyllenhaal, Stephen Rea, Lubna Azabal, et al / 3-Disc DVD / NR / 2014 / BBC America)
Overview: 'The Honorable Woman' centers on Nessa Stein (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a woman who inherits her father's arms business and finds herself in a international maelstrom when as she continues to promote the reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.
DVD Verdict: Hugo Blick's 'The Shadow Line' was an unusually complex, disturbing, stylish and odd thriller, and one of the best television dramas of recent years. With 'The Honorable Woman', he follows it up with an even more ambitious piece of work, a political drama set in the Middle East.
There's much to enjoy here, but it's not quite in the same class as its predecessor. The stylishness at times slips into pretension; the plot is not just complex, but initially baffling - it takes a few episodes before one can actually understand what the story is really about. In addition, the central plot twist - a plan to get the United States government to recognize Palestinian statehood - doesn't seem realistic given the prevailing political climate in the U.S.
Most problematic, though, is the choice of central character: the honorable woman, played by American actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, is indeed wholly honorable, though moving through a world of ruthless chancers. Moreover, she's a millionairess, beautiful, capable of great public composure, and simultaneously running a large business and promoting peace in the world.
It would be wrong to say that Gyllenhaal is anything other than good in the part - and yet, the character is written with an underlying strain of innate superiority. While the motives and capacities of every other character are questioned, I found it hard to sympathize with a heroine who uniquely is both morally whiter than white, and also, in conventional terms, hugely blessed by fortune of birth.
While her philanthropic interests are in some senses admirable, I found myself wondering, what right does this person have to choose how to set the world to rights? - which wouldn't have been a problem if only this hadn't been the one question among dozens raised by the drama that the script seemed to have no interest in addressing.
I'm being cruel here - this is still top notch stuff compared with the majority of television programs, both in execution and concept. It is, perhaps, just a little over-conceptualized - but it's still the most challenging series you're likely to watch this year.
In closing, I want to point out that Maggie Gyllenhaal's British accent is rather delightful here. Not a taint of an American lick anywhere, she has even gone as far as citing our beloved Emma Thompson as being a huge influence on how she came to her British accent. Filmed over a period of three months, 'The Honorable Woman' is a riveting piece of TV viewing and fully deserves your attention. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Feature of:
Deconstructing The Lies: A Behind The Scenes Look At The Making Of 'The Honorable Woman.'