Before I begin, I wanted to say congratulations on finishing the semester. I think most of us are still in disbelief that it’s actually over because the last two weeks felt like a slow crawl to the finish line, with a laptop and iced coffee in hand.
Now that it’s winter break, your laptop can be used for more important things, like catching up on all the shows and movies. To help you get started, I’ve listed my favorite period pieces on Netflix that let me escape our era and focus on the dramas of the past.
- Alias Grace
Originally based on a novel set in 1843, Alias Grace released only one season in 2017. It features a girl named Grace Marks, who tells her story from a jail cell to a curious psychiatrist. This murder mystery is both peculiar and eerie, which leaves you trying to find the answers on your own. Grace’s sweet Irish voice narrates her past along with the authentic clothes and Canadian landscape that create believable visuals. The best part is that it’s based on a true story, so while the show cuts short, the mystery is timeless.
- Bonfire of Destiny
Honestly, I wasn’t too impressed by the title either. However, the good news is that it’s actually a translation of the French title “Le Bazar de la Charité,” which translates to the charity bazaar. Bonfire of Destiny initially aired in France in 2019 and was available on Netflix later that year. Like Alias Grace, this historical drama is based on a true story (or rather a tragedy) that killed over a hundred people in a fire in 1897 Paris. The show remarkably portrays the harrowing event and the consequences that followed. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, as it follows a steamy love story and a tough-as-nails feminist mother. If you’re not scared of subtitles, Bonfire of Destiny will leave you in awe at the costumes and drooling over sexy French voices.
- Anna Karenina
If the name sounds familiar, it should. Anna Karenina is a novel that is considered one of the greatest works of literature. It’s written by Leo Tolstoy, a Russian author who is also regarded as one of the greatest authors of all time. Anna Karenina has been adapted into ballets, operas, TV shows, and of course, movies. Netflix has a version of the scandalous love affair with Kiera Knightly, who plays the role of a tortured wife remarkably (although she speaks very poor Russian). The film is set in a theatrical format, in which scenes change through moving props and backdrops. And trust me, it’s done in the best way imaginable. Anna Karenina isn’t your typical feel-good rom-com, but it’s worth the watch. You owe it to Tolstoy.
- Pride and Prejudice
This is THE period piece of all period pieces. Pride and Prejudice is a loved and worshipped classic. Kiera Knightly once again shines in this film, yet this time as a sweet girl with a proud heart. Pride and Prejudice is a staple Jane Austen story that centers on class disparities in rural 1813 England. It’s the story of an unruly romance that painstakingly illustrates the horrors of poor communication.
Nonetheless, the connection between the pair, Elizabeth Bennet and the captivating Darcy, is palpable even through the screen. I promise Pride and Prejudice will have you re-watching this movie on every rainy day. I recommend this movie to anyone that feels like they would’ve thrived in Great Britain’s Regency Era of manners and fine men.
Spoiler alert: It’s not the horrifying “Possession” movie you might be thinking of right now.
This period-piece is one of the most recent — and unexpected — gems I found on Netflix. In this British-American romantic mystery drama, you’ll see Gwyneth Paltrow playing her famous smart-and-sophisticated role as a poet scholar in London. With the help of a coincidentally attractive protagonist, she dives into the past to track a Victorian-era romance while finding her love on the way. I know, I know, it sounds like a predictable rom-com. Still, it was genuinely fascinating watching how history can be pieced together to tell a story. Admittedly, Possession is not truly a period piece because it jumps between 2002 and the past, but I’m a fan of early-2000s movies, so I’m not complaining.
Escapism seems to be a major theme for 2020. So, why not finish the year off with some of the best period pieces to transport you to a time before quarantine was a thing?