Howards End

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Howards End TV Poster Image
Solid adaptation of classic British book about class, love.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Class conventions are hard to break. Living according to social conventions is limiting, especially for women. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Schlegel sisters are independent and unconventional, but still adhere to social norms.

Violence
Sex

Relationships and marriage are major themes. 

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasionally sherry is consumed. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this adaptation of E.M. Forster's classic novel Howards End is about three families brought together by fate. It features lots of conversations about the social norms of the time, including the unacceptable mixing of different social classes. Illness, death, and marriage are themes, as is the growing suffragist movement. Folks who enjoyed the book or who are fans of this sort of British series won't find much fault with it, but chances are that most kids won't be very interested in tuning in. 

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What's the story?

Based on E.M. Forster's classic novel, HOWARDS END is a story about three families at the turn of the 20th century. It's 1905, and Helen Schlegel (Philippa Coulthard) is visiting the Wilcox family at their country home, Howards End, while her sister, Margaret (Hayley Atwell), and brother, Tibby (Alex Lawther), remain at Wickham Place in London with their Aunt Juley (Tracey Ullman). But when Helen writes to tell them that she is in love with the young Paul Wilcox (Jonah Hauer-King), Aunt Juley swiftly goes to represent the family -- only to discover that they were not engaged. Despite some awkwardness between the two families following the unfortunate incident, Margaret befriends Ruth Wilcox (Julia Ormond) when she and her husband, Henry (Matthew Macfadyen), move into an apartment near their London home. Meanwhile, a mix-up at a concert leads to an unexpected encounter between the Schlegel sisters and a young, struggling bank clerk named Leonard Bast (Joseph Quinn). As the unconventional sisters navigate their way through relationships, the women's movement, and other life-changing events, they must also deal with the social class conventions of the time. 

Is it any good?

This adaptation offers a solid, well-produced version of E.M. Forster's acclaimed novel, which highlights the social customs at the onset of post-Victorian England. It points to how members of British society managed their associations with people from different social classes and within different social circles. It also addresses how some struggled with these norms, while others felt them necessary and appropriate to keep social order. 

The social conventions and codes of conduct that dictated relationships of the time are underscored, which may not be interesting to all viewers. But Howards End also provides some sense of how the country was changing overall. It won't appeal to everyone, and even if you like British period dramas, it's a little hard to get into. But fans of the genre will find the commitment worth their while. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it was like to live in turn-of-the-century England. What were the class distinctions? What kinds of rules were imposed on women? Men? Families? Have all of these rules changed over the years?

  • What are the differences between the film adaption of Howards End (1992) and this miniseries version? Which do you think is better? Why?  

TV details

For kids who love classics

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