The Dwelling Place is a movie based off a novel of the same name by Catherine Cookson. Catherine Cookson has made many Victorian era-Edwardian Era period novels which were turned into movies in the 1990’s. Many are compelling stories, often highlighting social issues faced in those eras. However, the most interesting story I’ve seen so far is called The Dwelling Place.
The plot centers around Cissie Brodie, the eldest child who is a teenager who now must take care of her younger siblings when their parents die from cholera. To avoid the inevitable fate of being split up forever and sent to workhouses, Cissie takes matters into her own hands, and moves the family into an empty cave they found they named “the dwelling place”. In the meantime, the younger siblings, two younger brothers and two younger sisters take on jobs to help support their little family. The brothers work in a mine and the sisters work as a maid and laundress. Cissie and the family also prepare a roof and entry way for the impending winter and meet Matthew, a local carpenter to help them out. Matthew develops an interest in the family, and gets attracted to Cissie. When one of the brothers comes home from the mine with a gash on his knee, it is revealed that he is being abused in the mine. Matthew gets both boys out if that mine and employs the older one as his apprentice instead. The two sisters, Mary, becomes a maid, and Bella becomes a laundress. The youngest child, Joe wanted to help too, and does so by catching rabbits.
Life gets up heaved for the Brodies soon after things begin to settle down. One day, while Joe was catching rabbits, he went onto a noble’s estate and was caught by the daughter on there. Joe screamed for help and Cissie came and fetched him back, making an enemy out of the people living on the estate. Clive, the son of the estate’s owner followed Cissie back and raped her in front of little Joe. Joe ran to get help and meets Lord Fischel, the owner of the estate. He witnesses the act and is horrified that his children would do such a thing. As punishment, he sends Clive away at sea and Isabelle, who first caught Joe, is grounded. Matthew finds out something was amiss when the oldest brother, his apprentice tells him what happened. Matthew was furious, but Cissie told him to keep out of it. Months later, Lord Fischel was riding by in his carriage and saw that Cissie was pregnant with his son’s child. He sends his butler to find out when the child is due. Lord Fischel tries to persuade Cissie into giving him the child, but she remains steadfast in her decision to keep him. This all changes however, when Bella, the younger sister was accused of theft of some handkerchiefs. Bella threatened with the prospect of jail, Cissie makes a deal with lord Fischel to give him the child in exchange for all charges to be dropped for Bella. For this, Cissie also would be payed a hefty sum each week for the child’s absence. Cissie was devastated at the loss of her child.
Three years later, Clive returned from sea a changed man. He sought Cissie out and told her she could keep her child once he knew what happened between his father and Cissie. Clive felt it was unjust what his father did. his condition was that the child could not live in their hovel, but must have a proper house and be sent to school. Clive would arrange this by buying Cissie a house in her name. Cissie would agree to those terms. Since Cissie’s life wouldn’t stand still though, Matthew who had to marry another, but was still attached to Cissie saw Clive as one, the one who wronged her, and two, a new rival to his affections. He tried to persuade Cissie to let him buy her a home, but Cissie wanted her son back so badly, she was compelled to take up Clive’s offer. Isabelle, however is completely opposed, and tries to get the child back. A fight ensues between her and Clive and he accidentally kills her in the struggle. This is covered up to look like a riding accident. Meanwhile, the child is not attached to Cissie as she didn’t raise him, and Cissie ultimately decides to let Lord Fischel have him back. She also returns the deeds to the house and the money he gave her for the child. As she went back to the dwelling place, Clive catches up to her and confesses is love for her and they decide to marry. Cissie moves back into the house he has bought for her and Clive told her he’d rejoin her after one more year at sea.
Overall, I thought the story was compelling. However, my biggest praise was for Cissie’s character. She had shown a strength of character and fortitude that many her age and even older would never have! They way she cared or her younger siblings, and even giving up her own child so that her sister would be protected was awe inspiring! Also, the fact that she never took charity and always insisted on providing for herself. I think she should have taken more help than she did! The greatest feat of character she did, in my opinion though, was giving her child back when she knew he didn’t love her, and giving up the deeds to the house and the money. It truly showed how she honored her word and the deals she went into and her integrity. It also showed her love for her child, as she wanted the best for him and what he needed, beyond her own desire to keep him. Cissie overcame all odds to make life better for her family and retained her integrity throughout her ordeal in a way many wouldn’t have.
The stranger part in the story was probably Clive’s transformation from callous rapist, to repentant and loving father to the boy. Some of it felt like it was stretched a bit too far outside the boundaries of imagination. Others noted, in a modern context, Cissie’s choice to marry her former rapist seemed detrimental and unsatisfactory. However, one must not look at it through modern eyes. Women back then were not empowered like women today to stand up against sexual assault, and considering Cissie’s circumstance in life, the marriage to Clive was the best thing she did in terms of securing her family’s future out of destitution. Not to mention, Clive did return a changed man, and helped her get her child back to make amends and even bought her a house. He came to love Cissie, and it was a marriage of love, more than necessity. I think Cissie, being who she was, would have refused if she did not love him, as she refused many other comforts in favor of her integrity.
Overall, I loved the history too! The costumes were period appropriate and it showed the type of hardship and poverty that faced many in that era. The plot was engaging and one could really be transported back in time! Overall a great period drama!