Aside from Howards End being beautiful to look at and well-acted, this four-episode Edwardian-era costume drama based on EM Foster’s 1910 novel about love, privilege, money and morality still feels relevant.
The Howard’s End of the title is a house and the story is centred on its inhabitants – cultured and daring Margaret Schlegel (Hayley Atwell – Peggy in Agent Carter) and her siblings, as well as the Wilcox family, headed by rich, conservative misogynist Henry Wilcox (Matthew Macfadyen, who you’ll recognise as Tom in Succession). Henry is the widower of Margaret’s friend Ruth (Julia Ormond). Despite their obvious differences – and to their families’ outspoken horror – Margaret and Henry are fascinated by one another and their clashing values challenge all their strongest-held beliefs.
Don’t fall into the trap of approaching it as a romance. It has plenty of humour – particularly in Margaret’s charmingly eccentric brother Tibby (Alex Lawther). And Matthew pulls off a miracle by making Henry – the kind of man whose opinionated steamrollering makes family gatherings tiresome – fairly attractive.
While moral codes and gender roles have shifted dramatically since Howards End was originally written, its central message seems more relevant in today’s deeply divisive political climate than ever. Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic writes: “In the end, Howards End suggests that life comes down to a different choice: the loneliness of rejecting difference, and the possibilities that come when people try, instead, to connect.”
IMDB rating: 7.3/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 88%