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Call the Midwife: Season Two Blu-ray Review

call-the-midwife-S2-blu-ray-coverU.S. Release

 

The Series

[Rating:4.5/5]

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Call the Midwife, the BBC’s latest hit period drama based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, has overtaken the immensely successful Downton Abbey to become the most successful new drama debut for the BBC in two-decades. Watching this charming, heartfelt, and ‘lived-in’ drama, it’s not difficult to understand why that should be the case. Where Downton Abbey is a fine drama of romance and luxuriant sets that juxtaposes the affluent with their less fortunate servants, Call the Midwife places us right in the heart of the average and everyday in an intricately detailed post-war Britain. What better way to experience the laughs, tears, struggles, and heartbreak of everyday living than through the eyes of those in the trenches, so to speak? The story follows a group of NHS (National Health Service) nurses and midwives working for a group of nuns in London’s poorer neighborhood in the mid-1950s. Told through the eyes (and words) of young midwife Jenny (Jessica Raine; Vanessa Redgrave as mature Jenny narrates from Worth’s memoirs), the series is literally a story of the struggle of life and death. Each week’s episode brings a new tale into the often miserable (in the root sense) lives of the working class and poor, but also offers the new hope and optimism of children being born (or sometimes not) making it into the world. The cast is spectacular, here. A true standout is Miranda Hart as the somewhat awkward upper class midwife Chummy Browne. Judy Parfitt is also a charmer as the lovable nun Sister Monica Joan suffering from dementia. As only the Brits seem to be able to do so well, the set designs are wonderfully authentic and layered, drawing us right into the mid 20th Century with every oyster cart, pram, and dilapidated row house.

In its second season, the nurses carry on their challenging tasks from the previous season, and find new challenges. This is a season that will see the lead character Jenny take somewhat of a backseat to the rest of the cast and the cacophony of women (and men) they seek to aid in their jobs with the NHS. Amongst some of the more topical moments in the season are an episode dealing with abortion, a pregnant working woman estranged from her dying, elderly father, and a young infant born with spina bifida. One of the nuns also begins to have a crises of faith as she begins to have romantic feelings for a doctor she works closely with.

The second season continues on with the wonderful period set designs, the touching personal stories, and social issues of the times that are still relevant to us today, making this one a must-watch series.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

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Call the Midwife is shot with the Ariflex D-21 in ProRes 4:4:4 (1080/24p) HD and comes to Blu-ray in an AVC/MPEG-4 1080p/24 encodement from the BBC. While the image is rich in mid-tone saturation, has spot on flesh tones, and strong close-up detail and textural information, is is also rather soft and is often overwhelmed with video noise, albeit a soft sort of noise that almost passes for film grain. Still, this is far from a perfect, reference quality release, even if it does best the broadcasts of the series by ridding itself of the issues concerning posterization, macroblocking, and inconsistent shadow details.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3/5]

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We are given only a lossy English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo soundtrack with accompanying English SDH subtitles here that misses the opportunity to really engulf us in the din of the tenements and row houses of the part of London the series portrays. At the very least, the track offers up clear and full dialogue with slight but effective stereo imagery.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:1/5]

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A half-hour featurette with the castmembers discussing the series and the impact of midwifery is included.

  • Midwifery (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:30:01)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

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The juxtaposition of life and death, poor and wealthy, and the everyday struggles of the people is what makes Call the Midwife so wonderful to watch. With the brilliant acting from the cast of veterans and younger actors, this one is top notch BBC drama all the way.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Series
[Rating:4.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:1/5]

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