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DVD Review

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Starring: Jack Davenport, Natasha Little, Catherine Steadman and Zoe Boyle
Distributor: ITV Studios Global Entertainment
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 12
Release Date: 25 November 2013

1961, a time when Britain was on the brink of the Sixties revolution - abortion is illegal and the contraceptive pill is only just becoming available to married women. Set in and around a busy gynaecology unit, medicine becomes the perfect stage to play out the shifting and complex moral codes of early 1960’s society. Otto Powell is a brilliant and charismatic surgeon, who passionately believes he can make a difference to women’s lives. His marriage to the elegant Elizabeth appears to be idyllic. But Otto and Elizabeth are hiding a devastating secret, an event in their past which could shatter the careful illusion they have created...

Breathless was originally broadcast in six parts on ITV between 10 October and 14 November 2013. The show sees Jack Davenport and Natasha Little reunited - they both starred in This Life at the start of their careers. Here they play husband and wife Otto and Elizabeth Powell. Otto is one of London's finest surgeons, but while by day he saves lives, in the evenings he takes them, by secretly providing illegal house calls to pregnant mothers who want to terminate their pregnancies.

The show revolves around Otto and his friends as well as his infatuation with a new nurse, Angela Wilson (played by Catherine Steadman). But as the series unfolds we discover that something from Otto and Catherine's past has been unearthed, and it's something that could blow the lid on their seemingly happy and contented lifestyle

One of the interesting aspects of this drama series is that it takes all your preconceived notions of a show of this style and deliberately goes about doing the opposite of what you'd expect in almost every aspect.

For starters, the look of the show isn't drab with brown sepia tones. It's bright and colourful. And then there's the characters, almost all of which end up being totally different from how you first felt about them when they were introduced. So some characters you thought were slimy and deceitful are the exact opposite and others you thought were victims are actually just looking out for themselves.

It also gives a more realistic view of the '50s/'60s. This is a time when unmarried mothers would have their newly born children ripped from their arms and thrust into children's homes. It was also a time when abortion was illegal and the Pill had just been introduced. It was still very much a man's world. Nurses were not allowed to be married and there were few ethnic minorities working in hospitals.

The hospital aspect of the show is the glue that holds the series together - it's not overly important that it's set in this environment, it's just that based here it allows the writers much more scope to show what life was like back then.

Extras include a number of featurettes that interview cast and crew to give their opinion on various aspects of the show: About Breathless (5 min, 58 sec); Creating the Look (6 min, 18 sec); Secrets and Lies (4 min, 33 sec); Stylings (5 min, 47 sec); and The Breathless Era (5 min, 11 sec).

This is an enjoyable series that is well worth adding to your DVD collection.


Darren Rea

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