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Period Film Review – Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor (2001)

Lorna Doone

It is 1675, the reign of Charles II.

Many days’ journey from London,

The Western country is still a primitive & lawless

Place, where the government struggles to impose its authority.

To all intents and purposes, it is another country.

The setting of the film takes place in a region of England in the East Lyn Valley area of the counties Somerset and Devon. The valley is indeed a wild place replete with mist-shrouded groves, waterfalls, acres of untamed forest, and miles of rivers. It is home to not only the gentle farming folk who inherit its verdant fields but to a group of outlaws by the name of “the Doones.”

A young boy and his father are in the town market when the Doones arrive and bring absolute bedlam with them. All are terrified of them and none dares to stand up to them, despite the fact that all they do is steal what is not theirs. There is only one man who ultimately is unafraid to stand up to the Doone bullies, a man by the name of Jack Ridd, an honest farmer. What ensues is the death of the honest farmer, while his young son John looks on in absolute horror. From that moment on, young John promises to get vengeance on the men who murdered his father, one of them being the main antagonist, Carver Doone.

Left to Right: Sir Ensor Doone, Carver Doone, and Chancellor Doone.
Left to Right: Sir Ensor Doone, Carver Doone, and Chancellor Doone.

Shortly thereafter, John and his mother, Sara bravely adventure into the lawless Doone lands to press their case against the Doones and to declare the murder of Jack Ridd. The mother and son are then blindfolded and ushered into the presence of the patriarch of Sir Ensor Doone, cutting an imposing figure. He is flanked by his counselor and the counselor’s son and the heir to all the Doone land, Carver. When Sarah speaks about the evil that her husband has faced at their hands, all three men mock her and even twist the situation around to make it seem like her husband was the one solely at fault. Being offered money by Sir Ensor, Sarah refuses it then takes her son and they return to the safety of their farmhouse.

Young John Ridd and young Lorna Doona. John is teaching Lorna how to catch a fish with her hands.
Young John Ridd and young Lorna Doona. John is teaching Lorna how to catch a fish with her hands.

A couple days later, young John is fishing by the river and he has a bit of an accident where he hits his head and almost drowns. However, it is due to the kindly ministrations of a beautiful young girl that he is saved and she soon introduces herself simply as, “Lorna.” Soon we hear the voice of Carver Doone and his crony calling her name, causing her to urge John to leave, stating that he will surely be killed if they find him. By going through a secret passage in the cliff’s side, he escapes.

Years pass and it shows that John Ridd has matured into a handsome young man with wild hair and bright blue eyes. He lives on the farm with his mother and his two sisters, Annie, and Lizzie. When he learns that his uncle, Reuben Huckaback is accosted by the Doones one night and appears at the farm all bloodied and bruised, John remembers the vow that he once made. Both uncle and nephew make their way to visit the local judge in order to plead that justice be done, but it is clear that the Baron de Whichehalse has positively no intention of helping Reuben. It is then clear that John is the only one who can avenge his uncle.

Lorna Doone romance

With no other view than to get revenge, John sneaks once again back into Doone territory, to the familiar waterfall where he once met the little girl. However, it appears that she has blossomed into a lovely young woman with long dark hair and lively dark eyes as well as an infectious smile. When he learns Lorna’s true full name, that of “Lorna Doone,” he is awestruck. However, it does little to sway his affection for her and the two begin a courtship where he comes to see her often. What John does not realize is that Lorna is betrothed to the most abominable of all the Doones, Carver Doone and that she has no choice but to marry him! It is apparent from their interactions that Carver loves Lorna desperately and madly despite the fact that she doesn’t seem to care too much for him. When Sir Ensor Doone dies, Carver ascends to the role of ruler of the Doones and comes to accept Lorna as his prize. Will John save her from Carver’s grasp? Or will Lorna be forced to wed the odious Carver?

Lorna DooneLorna Doone is a fantastic storytelling masterpiece complete with treachery, a budding love story between two unlikely characters, a great deal of revenge, and it is rife with secrets. I admit that there were twists and turns that had me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire series. If you enjoy foggy forest glades of the English idyllic countryside and good old-fashioned romances, then this is for you!  At first it was a little slow, telling the story of John Ridd and his ill-fated father but once the terrible Doones became involved, the story became absolutely amazing.  All in all, I found it to be a fascinating series that engrossed me from start to finish.  It is the perfect sort of thing that would be fun to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon when you are looking for something enjoyable to watch.

James McAvoy in Lorna Doone.
James McAvoy and Joanne Froggatt in Lorna Doone.

One interesting thing to note is that there were several actors in this series who would later go on to make names for themselves. Here are some of the names in Lorna Doone: Amelia Warner as the titular character Lorna Doone (Quills), Richard Coyle as John Ridd (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and AD: The Bible Continues), James McAvoy as Sergeant Bloxham (The Chronicles of Narnia, Atonement, and Becoming Jane), Honeysuckle Weeks as Annie Ridd (The Rag Nymph and Foyle’s War), Joanne Froggatt as Lizzie Ridd (Island at War and Downton Abbey), Barbara Flynn as Sarah Ridd (Wives and Daughters, The Forsyte Saga, and Cranford), and Aidan Gillen as Carver Doone (Game of Thrones and Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials).

Lorna Doone is available on DVD and Amazon Instant Video for rent.

Photos: BBC 

Overall Rating

Four and a half corset rating

“You had me at hello.”

Romance Rating

Five heart rating

“You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope.

I have loved none but you.”

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By on September 19th, 2015

About Kendall Turchyn

“It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do.” Jane Austen once said. Employed as an editor at a publishing house, Kendall loves the written word most of all and anything pertaining therein. She is a writer, a historian, a book reviewer, a blogger, a medievalist, and, most importantly, an ardent lover of reading. Among her interests are history, period pieces, classic works of literature, historical fiction, literature centered on women, and the Middle Ages. Kendall is currently in the process of writing and completing her first book, a paranormal romance set on a stormy island in Maine. To find out more information about Kendall, visit her personal book-reviewing website: www.MerryWifeofWindsor.com.

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1 thought on “Period Film Review – Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor (2001)”

  1. Wow, I haven’t seen this movie in so long! I really like period dramas and this was an enjoyable one. I remember that Carver’s character was fascinating to me. Of course, I wanted John and Lorna to be together. And I remember being so surprised when I saw James McAvoy with a small role lol.


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