Call the Midwife Recalls London’s East End

Wednesday Matinee

By Jane Boursaw

Destination: London, England

Call the Midwife

One of my favorite TV shows of the past few years is “Call the Midwife.” I happened upon it one night while surfing around the tube, and was immediately drawn into the story and characters.

Seasons one and two of “Call the Midwife” are now available on Netflix, and season three is set to premiere on PBS sometime in 2014. Like so many British shows these days, its sweet sincerity stands out among all the fast-paced shows that crowd the airwaves here in the States.

Also, the locations are beautifully British through and through. St. Joseph’s Missionary College in Mill Hill, London stands in for the interiors, and the Chatham Historic Dockyard in Chatham, Kent, England provides the street exteriors. Watching the show, you really feel like you are right there in that time and place. Everything from the clothes to the cars to the decor is spot on.

Based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth, “Call the Midwife” centers on 22-year-old Jenny Lee (Jessica Raine), who in 1957 leaves her comfortable home to become a midwife in the impoverished East London. She arrives at the clinic to learn that it’s actually a convent, Nonnatus House, where nurses and medically-trained nuns work side by side.

The Sisters and midwives perform many nursing duties, but their primary work is to deliver babies and look after the newborns. Of course, the stories are much more than that.

The first episode, for instance, finds Jenny shocked at the poverty of the area, and delivering a baby on her own. Carolina Valdez plays the baby’s mother, Conchita, a Spanish former child bride who speaks no English and is giving birth for the 24th time. Yes, 24th.

Call the Midwife

The stories run the gamut of stolen babies, unwed mothers, adoptions, contraception, and senile nuns, not to mention the personal lives of the folks at Nonnatus House, including relationships with married men.

The cast also includes Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris, Miranda Hart, Judy Parfitt, Helen George, Bryony Hannah and Laura Main, and Vanessa Redgrave provides narration as the mature Jenny.

“Call the Midwife” is an engaging series that’s sweet, touching, joyful and heartbreaking. Birth is something that touches us all, and this series shows the indelible strength of the human spirit, even in the darkest of times.

And in this modern era of Skyping and Twitter and email groups, it’s a joy to watch a show where people — real-life people, not people you know in cyberspace — are connected in ways that we may never be connected again.

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