Lillies DVD Review: A Bittersweet Post-war Drama

Lillies is a costume drama that ran on the BBC for one season in 2007. It was set in Liverpool in 1920. The story revolved around three sisters: Iris (Catherine Tyldesley), Ruby (Kerrie Hayes), and May (Leanne Rowe.) Plus their father (Brian McCardie), brother Billy (Daniel Rigby), and various friends and potential lovers. It is loosely based on the stories creator Heidi Thomas’ grandmother used to tell of her life in the early 1920s.

The girls all dream of bigger and better lives but are held back by their loving, but often hard, harsh, and drunk father. He can’t bare to think of them leaving after their mother died. The girls love their father, and each other, but they all hope for another life, a better one that might just be around the corner.

The family is poor and times are tough in this post-war England. The series doesn’t shy away from the struggles and bleakness of poverty, but it’s never despairing or depressing. Things may be difficult but the characters always pull through with love, warmth, and humor.

It takes place shortly after the end of World War I and the scars that war left are seen throughout the show. This is especially true with Billy, who went to war, saw action on a war ship, but was sent home due to struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (though of course it wasn’t known as that then). He returns home to find that not only is he not welcomed back as a hero, but is seen by some as a coward who forsook his country.

All of the family members face struggles as deal with the challenges of life and love. The girls especially must come to terms with growing up and pursuing their dreams while dealing with the daily struggles of just surviving.

I must say after the first episode I was not at all convinced this was a show worth watching. It wasn’t bad, but in a world flooded with period pieces and costume dramas, Lillies struggled to stand out. But by the end of the second, I’d been won over and by the conclusion of the series I’m definitely on board. They do a wonderful job of mixing the tear-jerking drama with boisterous laugh-out-loud humor.

Sadly, the show was cancelled after one season. With only eight episodes in total, there isn’t enough here to make it an absolute must-have. Though at the same time one might argue that’s enough to enjoy while not being burdened with another long series to add to your no doubt already-full TV watching schedule. With that in mind, Lillies makes a nice refreshing snack to indulge in between heartier meals.

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Mat Brewster

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