In this beautiful and well-acted adaptation of the classic novel, we are introduced to the occupants of a grand English country house called Howards End. There’s the cultured and daring Margaret Schlegel and her siblings, and the Wilcox family, headed by rich, conservative misogynist Henry Wilcox (Matthew Macfadyen – Tom in Succession).
Henry is the widower of Margaret’s friend Ruth (Julia Ormond). Despite their obvious differences – and to their families’ outspoken horror – Margaret and Henry are fascinated by one another and their clashing values challenge all their strongest-held beliefs.
Don’t fall into the trap of approaching the series as a simple romance, as it has plenty of humour too – particularly in Margaret’s charmingly eccentric brother Tibby (Alex Lawther). And Matthew pulls off a miracle by making Henry – the kind of man whose opinionated steamrollering makes family gatherings tiresome – fairly attractive.
Howards End was penned by EM Forster in 1910, and adapted into a 1992 film starring Anthony Hopkins, Helena Bonham Carter and Emma Thompson, who won an Oscar for playing Margaret. This miniseries sees the story through a modern lens, but is every bit as engaging.
While moral codes and gender roles have shifted dramatically since Howards End was originally written, its central message seems more relevant in today’s deeply divisive political climate than ever. Sophie Gilbert of The Atlantic writes: “In the end, Howards End suggests that life comes down to a different choice: the loneliness of rejecting difference, and the possibilities that come when people try, instead, to connect.”