Gentleman Jack 2019, 2022 / An invigorating sapphic drama about the first modern lesbian


A quick look at Anne Lister’s Wikipedia page will let you know that the English landowner lived a full life. She dutifully attended to her tenants, traveled widely, wrote frequently, and loved oh so deeply. With Gentleman Jack, a nickname Lister received during her lifetime, Director Sally Wainwright (Happy Valley) gives her story justice by telling it with sufficient skill and sensitivity. Wainwright isn’t afraid to explore her voracious sexual appetite, her intellectual rigor, and her at-times questionable stance on land tenure. Wainwright’s decision to make the show as much about Lister as the servants and tenants is reminiscent of dramas like Downton Abbey, which give us a fuller picture of life back in the 1800s. Though it can sometimes make the show tonally discordant (is this a lesbian erotica, a day in the life period piece, or a family drama?) it ultimately adds to the richness of the story.

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