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Coming Home (1998) Review: A Solid WWII Period Drama With Fine Performances

Coming Home stars Peter O’Toole, Emily Mortimer, Paul Bettany, and a young Keira Knightley.

Coming Home miniseries

Review: Coming Home (1998) TV Miniseries

Coming Home (1998) is an ITV miniseries based upon Rosamunde Pilcher’s coming-of-age story of the same name. The series takes place during World War II (pre and post as well) in England. It follows about a decade of the life and loves and travails of schoolgirl Judith Dunbar, who comes of age as war erupts.

The Coming Home TV miniseries features an impressive cast, including a young Keira Knightley as the schoolgirl Judith and Emily Mortimer as the woman Judith. Supporting these two talented leads is none other than Peter O’Toole, Joanna Lumley, Paul Bettany, to name a few.

It all converges into a poignant tale with some very fine performances.

War Changes Everything

Coming Home 1998 TV Miniseries promotional image with Keira Knightley

Judith Dunbar meets and becomes fast friends with Loveday Carey-Lewis at boarding school. Judith’s parents and her little sister are abroad, in Singapore, for her father’s business. She has been left in England as a ward of her eccentric, widowed aunt.

Loveday invites Judith home to Nancherrow for holidays, introducing Judith to a whole realm of wealth and privilege, long from her own humbler origins. She also introduces Judith to the whole Carey-Lewis family, who are loving, fun, generous, who have created a little piece of isolated heaven at their expansive estate. Judith is quickly adopted into this Carey-Lewis clan.

And as the years pass, schoolgirl Judith develops into a lovely young woman, who has her “adoptive” brother Edward Carey-Lewis (Bettany) eyeing her with something more than brotherly love. He is a charming, sexy rake with a devil-may-care twinkle in his eye. (Might I just say that it was a piece of casting genius to cast Paul Bettany as Peter O’Toole’s son). And Judith is putty in his hands.

But the drums of war sound in the distance. And even the seemingly carefree and magical realm of Nancherrow cannot keep the horrors at bay.

Judith’s parents and little sister are still in Singapore, in the path of Japanese aggressors. Men are rounded up for war, including Edward, his friend Jeremy, Loveday’s boyfriend Gus, and on it goes. A whole generation of young men sent off to fight. Judith’s plans for Oxford are squashed, and she becomes a secretary for the Royal Navy.

And I’m not going to tell much more of the plot. But suffice it to say, no one gets through war completely unscathed. And sometimes, one’s first love doesn’t last. Okay, too much! Mum’s the word now!

A Well-Acted, Poignant Tale

Coming Home is not a groundbreaking drama, but it is a solid and poignant little story of one woman’s life in a time of war. Sure, it’s got its clichés and eye-rolling melodramatic moments. And yeah, it jumps a bit in terms of timeframes. But the story holds, and it is really well acted.

Plus, it is such a pleasure to see Peter O’Toole as the Carey-Lewis patriarch. Joanna Lumley as his wife, is terrific, just the right balance of humor and seriousness. It was a revelation to see her in this, as I’m most familiar with her over-the-top comedic work. Keira Knightley is a star in the making here. Emily Mortimer is solid, solid, solid. And Paul Bettany is always a roguish joy to watch.

I enjoyed it. I rolled my eyes, laughed, cried, and sighed by the end. It was well worth the 3-hour watch.

Where to Watch: DVD, YouTube.

Content Note: There is some brief female nudity, two shots in combination with non-explicit sex scenes.

Have you seen Coming Home (1998)? Drop a comment below with your thoughts on the Coming Home TV miniseries.

Photo Credit: ITV.


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By on September 25th, 2019

About Jessica Jørgensen

A lover of words, stories and storytellers since her youth and just plain curious by nature, Jessica embarked on a very long academic journey that took her across a continent (from Canada's west coast to its east) and even to the other side of the globe, where she currently lives an expat existence in Denmark. She now trails many fancy initials behind her name, if she ever cares to use them, and continues to be ever so curious. She's a folklorist, a mother, a wife, a middle child, a small town girl, a beekeeper, an occasional quilter, a jam-maker. She curates museum exhibits, gets involved in many cultural projects for this and that, collects oral histories when she can find the time and continues to love stories in all their many and varied forms. The local librarians all know her by name.

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