Cast: Silas Carson, Joe Hurst, Michael Gambon
Release Date: Available On Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD August 4
A Review By: Kevin Lovell
Disc Rating: 8/10
Based on the global bestselling novel by J.K. Rowling, the HBO and BBC coproduction THE CASUAL VACANCY is a three-part mini-series produced by Brontë Film and Television, written by Sarah Phelps (Eastenders, Great Expectations) and directed by Jonny Campbell (Doctor Who, Shameless). The mini-series centers on Pagford, a seemingly idyllic English village with a cobbled market square and ancient abbey. Behind the pretty façade, however, is a town at war. The rich at war with the poor, children at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils.
Based on the bestselling novel by acclaimed author J.K. Rowling (the ‘Harry Potter’ series) of the same name, ‘The Casual Vacancy’ tells the story of the colorful residents residing in the town of Pagford, a seemingly quiet and close knit English village which under the surface is a town at war with each other, fighting for its future and what that future will be. When council chair member Barry Fairbrother (Kinnear) randomly drops dead in the middle of the street, the various members of the town jump at the opportunity to fill the casual vacancy Barry has left with a candidate serving their own ordeals. Now friends will become foes and families will clash inside as well as out, but only one candidate will win the seat and decide the future of Pagford for good.
Sarah Phelps (TV’s EastEnders) wrote ‘The Casual Vacany’ for the screen, adapted from Rowling’s novel and Phelps does a pretty tremendous job with the adaption, making certain that all of the most crucial elements and character development from the book are intact here. Jonny Campbell (episodes of UK TV’s Shameless and more) directed all three parts of the mini-series and he does a highly capable job at the helm himself, guiding this emotionally powerful story and its breathtaking scenery with near flawlessness. The mini-series also greatly benefits from the talented individuals who comprise the cast, including such British talent as Michael Gambon, Julia McKenzie, Richard Glover, Rory Kinnear, Joe Hurst, newcomer Abigail Lawrie and more, all of whom deliver solid performances in each of their respective roles.
‘The Casual Vacancy’ is a well constructed adaption of Rowling’s book, with great attention to detail and carefully guided to guarantee that the real heart and soul of the book is retained on screen. The characters are well developed and don’t leave much, if anything lacking from what makes each of them so unique and complex in their own varying ways. The scenery and beauty of the town and its surroundings which is so crucial to the story and its progression is gorgeously represented here and prominently displayed as it should be. ‘The Casual Vacancy’ is a powerful, detailed and emotionally powerful story of a small English town and the madness that occurs within which frequently remains unnoticed. Overall, ‘The Casual Vacancy’ should please fellow fans of the novel with its well crafted adaption and newcomers to the story who enjoy a rich and powerful British story fueled by truly unique characters should thoroughly enjoy it as well. I would certainly recommend checking it out if you get the chance and for fellow fans of the novel, it’s a must.
The Blu-Ray release of ‘The Casual Vacancy’ features a full 1080p High Definition presentation utilizing a 2.40:1 Cinemascope Aspect Ratio on all three parts of the mini-series. The video presentation looks fantastic, delivering a sharp and detailed presentation throughout. The bright, warm colors so frequently on display here couldn’t possibly look better and the scenery of the town shines in its gorgeous clarity. Even the few darker and fast moving sequences hold up impressively, never causing anything occurring on screen to become negatively affected or indiscernible in the slightest. Overall, this is a top notch high definition video presentation that should have most folks more than satisfied.
The Blu-Ray release features a lossless 5.1 channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on all three parts. This lossless multichannel soundtrack sounds pretty great and delivers a consistently clean and discrete presentation throughout, utilizing all five available channels on occasion to surround the viewer with the series’ beautiful score in addition to on a number of fitting sequences in which a number of random and natural auditory effects are sent zooming by in any given direction, while never causing any dialogue which may be occurring simultaneously to become distorted or inaudible in any way. Overall, this is a solid 5.1 channel DTS-HD MA soundtrack that delivers in every way required of it and shouldn’t disappoint.
The Blu-Ray release of ‘The Casual Vacancy’ includes a few nice extras. Included on the release are 3 Featurette’s that explore different aspects of the mini-series including its adaption from Rowling’s novel to the screen and its broad group of characters and the selections for the cast portraying them, featuring behind the scenes footage in addition to interviews and comments with members of the cast and crew and more. The included Featurette’s are: ‘An Introduction to The Casual Vacancy’ (running approximately 9 minutes in length), ‘Adapting The Casual Vacancy’ (approximately 10 minutes) and ‘Casting The Casual Vacancy’ (13 minutes).