Black Narcissus

Rating 6.3
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 3 x 60 mins

The famous 1947 film based on Rumer Godden’s novel and starring Deborah Kerr is updated with a starring role for Gemma Arterton in this BBC adaptation. It is certainly lush looking, finely acted, sharply written and erotically charged. But the big question is why? Maybe it’s because the old trope of godliness counterpoised with desire makes a great watch – after watching this, we’re not sure we agree. 

In The Times Carol Midgley thinks there are moments of melodrama, but that by and large the script by Amanda Coe is “mostly high quality, taut, lean and restrained” and that whilst the “themes and the scenery were majestic… it will end up boiling down to that more basic time-old thing: two women fighting over one man.”

However, Mike Hale writing in the New York Times calls it “a meticulous production, handsome, literate and well acted,” adding that Gemma Arterton is “excellent as Sister Clodagh, the group’s prideful leader.”

The Telegraph’s Anita Singh rates Black Narcissus 4 out of 5 but asks, “of all the classic films to remake in 2020… why choose this study of nuns going hysterical in the Himalayas?” And she has a point. 

However, one excellent reason to watch this is that it is reportedly the last television role of Dame Diana Rigg, who died in September. It’s a relatively limited role as the nuns’ mother superior in Calcutta, but still hugely memorable.

First shown December 2020. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here:

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