Father Brown Review
Television series Father Brown is loosely based on the book series written by G.K. Chesterton. This newest adaptation updates the setting to the village of Kembleford in the Cotswolds district during the 1950’s. One of the few thing that remains true to the books is the character of Father Brown himself.
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Father Brown Synopsis
The Father is a rather unassuming character with a keenly intuitive mind. Although he is dedicated to his religious calling, he can’t help but be snagged by his sharp attention to detail along with his exceptional insights into human nature. This compels him into a secondary vocation as a self-appointed investigator whenever a crime is committed in Kembleford.
In some ways, he resembles his counterpart Sydney Chambers in another period mystery series, Grantchester. Like Sydney, the Father feels a loving responsibility to his parishioners. Both have curious minds and sharp observations which compel them to solve the deviant actions of human nature. However, unlike Sydney, Father Brown is no friend of the local police investigator(s) who find his meddling outside of the church as a nuisance and potential threat. And while Sydney tends to use deductive reasoning, Father Brown usually discovers his perpetrators through intuition.
He is possibly the least judgmental character I have seen on the small screen, while still encouraging parishioners and criminals alike to live according to religious principles. And although he is always invested in finding the perpetrator of a crime, it is not so that he can bring them to justice, but so that he can urge them to make it right themselves.
A Collection of Characters
Father Brown is ably assisted in his investigative efforts by a band of unlikely collaborators. The prickly Mrs. McCarthy acts as parish secretary and unofficial personal assistant. She ensures that the Father is treated with respect, eats his meals and keeps his appointments. Although she doesn’t approve of the Father’s snooping about and sees the world in black and white, she is always willing to assist him in his efforts.
Lady Felicia, the Countess, and local Lady Bountiful, on the other hand, has no qualms with Father Brown’s passion. She is always more than willing to use her influence and connections to further his investigations. The married Lady Felicia treats Father Brown as a close friend and confidante and loves to goad him by ogling every man she sees. Like the Father, she accepts people for who they are, without judgment and treats most people as her equals. The one exception to this rule is her frenemy Mrs. McCarthy, who despite the Lady’s best overtures still remains prickly towards her. One of my favorite things about Lady Felicia is her saucy character and her period haute couture. She is always dressed to the nines, accessories included, to the envy of this viewer.
The last member of the intrepid foursome is Sid Chambers, Lady Felicia’s chauffeur, and sometime petty criminal. Sid and the Father are unlikely friends. But the Father relies on Sid for his knowledge of the local underworld. Sid’s criminal skills are generally an asset in solving the Father’s cases.
One of my favorite characters is Father Brown’s nemesis Hercule Flambeau, a religious art thief who pops up in one episode each season. Even though these men are polar opposites, there is a mutual respect between them. It is fun to watch the dichotomy between their opposing purposes. Fans of the BBC series North and South may recognize actor John Light as the same man who played Margaret’s rejected suitor.
Why You Should Watch
While I’ve read other reviews which complain that this version of Father Brown is fluffy “nonsense” and “utter tosh”, I find it whimsical and entertaining. If you are expecting a show which is credible and historically accurate you will probably find something which will disappoint you. But if you enjoy series with engaging characters and a quintessentially English setting, you will love Father Brown.
One glaring inaccuracy is the Father’s modern theology. Many moral issues are viewed through a modern perspective instead of the one most religious figures would have espoused at that time. Still, I really appreciate Father Brown’s message of grace and second chances.
For fans of cozy English mystery series, Father Brown is a welcome addition. It’s idyllic Cotswold setting, memorable characters, interesting mysteries, exploration of village life and relationships all combine for delightful entertainment. The stand alone episodes mean they don’t have to be watched in a particular order although there are some cast changes from season to season. Fans of historical series such as Grantchester, Foyle’s War, Endeavor, and others will appreciate this lighter mystery series.
Content Note: Though there is some suggestive material, overall the content is clean and safe for family viewing.
Where to Watch: Stream the first four seasons on Netflix or Britbox. Purchase on Amazon or DVD.
Photo Credits: BBC Productions
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