In A Land Of Plenty (BBC-2 2001 with Helen McCrory and Robert Pugh)


UK / BBC2 / 10×50 minute episodes / 2001 (First Episode: Wednesday 10 January 9.00pm)

Writer: Kevin Hood / Novel: Tim Pears / Producer: Claire Hisch / Director: Hettie MacDonald

A compelling family portrait of the ties that bind us and the tragedies that tear us apart.

Beautifully captured on film, In a Land of Plenty follows the fortunes and failings of one family from the 1950s to the 1990s. This stunning 10-part epic family saga, adapted from the acclaimed novel by Tim Pears, is set in a world of increasing money and opportunity, where bonds of love and happiness have never been more tested.

It is 1952, a time of opportunity for ambitious industrialist Charles Freeman (Robert Pugh, The Lakes) in a small town in the heart of England. He buys the big house on the hill to cement his marriage to beautiful Mary (Helen McCrory, Anna Karenina) and nail his business aspirations for the future. In quick succession, three sons and a daughter are born – Simon, James, Robert and Alice – and with them the seeds of joy and tragedy.

Simon, the eldest is unable to cope with the pressure of living in the shadow of his father’s success and hides an unacceptable secret. Alice, the youngest and a Cambridge graduate, gives up a potentially glittering career to marry Harry Singh, an Indian business man. And Robert, unable to find his way in life, becomes violent and destructive, threatening members of his own family. Robert’s love for Laura, a family friend, is shared by his brother, James, and leads to ultimate tragedy.

Chronicling the family’s life through his own fascinating perspective is James (Shaun Dingwall) – a photographer who uses his camera as a way of withdrawing from the emotional turmoil around him. In a Land of Plenty is the story of James’ life, set in motion by a train of dramatic events. Realizing that understanding the past is their key to surviving the future, James recreates his family’s history, from the optimism of marriage to the conflicts of growing up. The story he tells becomes an intimate epic about love, memory, desire, loss, childhood and learning to grow.

The Critics View

The Guardian said “Excellently directed, wonderfully acted and intricately written, In a Land of Plenty manages to be both epic and intimate, conveying as much through the choice of how a scene is shot and the flash of emotion in a character’s eyes as through the words spoken… it’s a joy to see a genuinely momentous story told over 10 weeks, unwrapped like a luxurious pass-the-parcel. And the fact that it’s a story of one family makes it all the more engrossing. In A Land of Plenty shows the ordinary to be extraordinary.” Whilst The Times said “superb… There are one or two moments when the direction may be over-egged, but it is almost immoral to quibble in the face of something this good.”

Character Profiles

MARY FREEMAN (Helen McCrory)
Naive and willing to conform when she first marries Charles, Mary soon feels trapped by her role as dutiful wife and mother. As the children grow up, Mary finds a new purpose in writing poetry and mixing with local intellectuals – a pursuit that Charles finds ridiculous. Gradually Mary retreats into a half-world of alcohol and depression.

A self-made man, owner of a large factory in an unnamed town in middle England, patriarch Charles is quick-tempered, fiercely affectionate but narrow-minded. He fails to understand the needs of his wife and children, whom he alternately treats with fury and despair.

JAMES FREEMAN (Shaun Dingwall)
A sensitive, observant child, James is his mother’s favorite and confidant throughout her emotional troubles. Stung by divisions in the family, James withdraws behind the lens of a camera through which he views the world around him – until emotional and sexual experiences force him to face harsh three-dimensional reality.

SIMON FREEMAN (Tony Maudsley)
As the first-born son, Simon is expected to follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the family business. But tubby, awkward Simon isn’t cut out for life as a manager – and his father can’t conceal his disappointment. There’s another reason for Simon’s alienation within the family – he’s gay, and fears telling his parents.

ALICE FREEMAN (Susannah Wise)
The baby of the family, and the only girl, Alice is slightly otherworldly as a child. Obvious intellectual gifts raise her father’s hopes that Alice will excel in business – but she crushes those ambitions by settling for a career in education. In adult life she is transformed into a resourceful, level-headed woman.

The bad sheep of the family, Robert is a sullen, inarticulate child at his happiest when working on engines and hanging out with local gangs. Unlike nervous Simon and analytical James, Robert will grab anything and anyone he wants, without concern for the consequences. He also has a dangerous temper when crossed…

LAURA (Kaye Wragg)
As Edna and Stanley’s daughter – the Freeman’s housekeepers – Laura is brought up to be almost but not quite, part of the family. Conscious of her marginal status, and denied the Freemans’ financial resources, Laura develops into a strong young woman with a powerful urge towards motherhood.

EDNA (Lorraine Ashbourne)
Housekeeper and tower of strength to the Freeman family, Edna knows her place and doesn’t presume to rise above it. Despite that, she is a much more capable mother than the increasingly distracted Mary – although, when crisis hits her own family, Edna finds that she also has difficulty coping.

STANLEY (Garry Cooper)
Charles Freeman’s man-of-all-work and the husband of the Freeman’s housekeeper, Stanley is a quiet, contemplative man not greatly given to words. Underneath that craggy surface, however, run strong emotions – which can easily spill over into violence when provoked.


HELEN McCRORY as Mary Freeman
ROBERT PUGH as Charles Freeman
SHAUN DINGWALL as James Freeman
TONY MAUDSLEY as Simon Freeman
SUSANNAH WISE as Alice Freeman
STUART LAING as Robert Freeman
SIAN REEVES as Zoe Freeman
JOHN CATER as Alfred