BBC One has continued its season of Sunday night literary adaptations with Laurie Lee’s Cider With Rosie.
A nostalgia-saturated coming-of-age story about Lee’s childhood in bucolic rural Gloucestershire, it featured a heavyweight cast which included Timothy Spall as narrator, Samantha Morton as his mother, Annie Lee, and Jessica Hynes as Mrs Crabby, the schoolmistress.
Both reviewers and viewers at home quickly fell in love with Lee’s childhood tale, which was reflected in the ratings, with 3.9m tuning in despite it being up against favourites The X Factor and Downton Abbey on ITV.
Sam Wollaston at the Guardian said: “It captures the poetry and the spirit of Lee… I don’t believe many people watching won’t have been taken back to their own childhoods, adolescences and early loves, wherever and whenever they were.”
Samantha Morton was roundly praised for her heart-warming performance as Laurie’s mother, but it was the young stars – playing the titular Rosie and Lol (Laurie’s nickname) – who stole the show.
The producers used local schoolchildren instead of seasoned actors in the role. The Telegraph called the drama ‘intoxicating’ and were particularly impressed were the characters who played Lol.
“Young Laurie/Lol, played by Georgie Smith, was taciturn and entirely natural; while as teenaged Lol, the brilliant Archie Cox was all knees and elbows, his expression tilting from sweet little boy to sharp-faced youth,” Ceri Radford wrote.
Amazingly, this was Archie Cox’s first time acting. He was picked because of his Gloucestershire accent, having never even starred in a school play.
Ruby Ashbourne Serkis was ‘superb, a laughing provocatrice bandying sexual favours for wine gums and finally relieving Laurie of his innocence underneath a hay cart’.
The Independent’s Sarah Hughes praised the adaptation’s darker moments – death, murder, attempted rape – that prevented it becoming ‘heritage television for the Downton Abbey age, unthreatening, uncomplicated and ultimately unremarkable’.
However Radio Times’ Alison Graham was less happy about the adaptation, because she didn’t want it adapted at all.
“Timothy Spall narrates and, truly, these passages are the best bits because Lee’s unmistakeable voice, alone and unadorned, rings high, clear and true… But when we get to the acting action, something is lost,” she wrote.
Almost no viewers on Twitter agreed.
— Jason Hook (@jasonhookbooks) September 28, 2015
terrific adaption. All the warmth of the book and the darkness too. Charming, beautiful, soulful. And that house! #CiderWithRosie
— Fiona-Natasha Syms (@fifisyms) September 27, 2015
#CiderWithRosie last night was heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Will stay with me a long time, like one perfect summer afternoon…
— Nikki Goldblatt (@NikkiGoldblatt) September 28, 2015
Still thinking about the beautiful #CiderWithRosie with its nostalgic, uplifting narrative. All is good in my world right now.
— Miss English Teacher (@MissEngTeacher) September 28, 2015
— karen phillips (@amusedbyshowbiz) September 28, 2015
— Tina (@Crazier) September 27, 2015