An Inspector Calls is based on a well-known play by J.B. Priestley set in 1912 England. This is the 3rd movie version of the story, beautifully directed this time by Aisling Walsh. It’s a BBC production, available in the U.S. on Prime Video.
Sophie Rundle stars as Eve, the woman whose death brings a police inspector to the home of the rich Birling family. As the inspector does his questioning, we see Eve again and again in flashbacks.
The Birlings are celebrating the engagement of Sheila Birling (Chloe Pirrie) to Gerald Croft (Kyle Soller). The two of them seem honestly fond of each other, but the marriage is also a very good business arrangement for the family.
Arthur Birling (Ken Stott) and Sybil Birling (Miranda Richardson) are the pleased parents of the young couple. Their son Eric (Finn Cole) is also enjoying his sister’s big moment.
As the inspector approaches the house, we hear merry laughter coming from the celebrants. David Thewlis plays the Inspector. His arrival brings an end to the laughter.
The tension and surprises build slowly as the Inspector questions each family member and Gerald Croft in turn. Each of them knew Eve at different times and in different ways. Each of them damaged Eve carelessly and thoughtlessly in a way that led to her ultimate desperate demise.
I accidentally have a theme going this week. This is the week’s second review about how people with money and privilege are cruel and callous toward the lower classes they imagine themselves superior to. In An Inspector Calls, the unusual Inspector actually calls out their sins.
The Inspector reminds the wealthy folks who are so pleased that they are doing well that their actions affect everyone, especially less powerful women. The women who work for them. The women who suffer their unwanted attention. The women who bear their children. The message from a 1912 play remains relevant today as class, privilege, and income inequality threaten not just people but an entire planetary ecosystem.
In the final moments of the film, an element of magical realism or science fiction is added. I’m not sure how the ending would have been labeled by the original playwright J.B. Priestley, but in director Aisling Walsh’s hands it becomes a karmic punch in the gut for the smug Birling family.
This story is a perennial favorite for good reason. Putting together a brilliant cast to bring it to life one more time was a wise move from the BBC. It’s well done, intelligent television.
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Does this sound like your kind of drama?