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Our Lives, Our Selves: An Advance Review of Any Human Heart on PBS' Masterpiece Classic

"Never say you know the last word about any human heart." - Henry James

Logan Mountstuart, the central character of Any Human Heart, which begins this Sunday on PBS' Masterpiece Classic, has experienced the sort of life that is overflowing with love and loss. It's a portrait of not just a life lived, but also of England in the 20th century.

The three-part drama (which aired last year in the UK on Channel 4) is adapted from William Boyd's 2002 novel, "Any Human Heart: The Intimate Journals of Logan Mountstuart," and recounts the extraordinary life of the central character, played throughout his life by Sam Claflin, Matthew Macfadyen, and Jim Broadbent. Told in a non-linear fashion, we witness key moments in Logan's life: his Oxford collegiate days, the blush of first love and fatherhood, wartime encounters, romance and death, success and failure.

It's the elderly Logan (Broadbent) who is sorting through the detritus of his life and, it seems, his memory, attempting to arrange events in a way that they can be understood, dreams standing side by side with painful memories, half-remembered ones giving way to brutally honest ones, moments of pride and of shame. As he recalls his life, he sorts through the numerous journals he kept throughout his life, the photographs and objects he held onto, as he starts a conflagration in his back yard, the follies of youth giving way to the sobering realizations of old age.

That Logan crosses paths with some extraordinary individuals--from Miro and Hemingway to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the latter played to icy perfection by Tom Hollander and Gillian Anderson)--and is at times at either the right place (or the wrong place, depending on your viewpoint) for some of the seminal moments of the twentieth century gives the gorgeously crafted piece some historical heft, but it's the portrait of one man's life that gives Any Human Heart its true emotional resonance.

This is a heartbreaking drama that uses the life of Logan Mountstuart as way of exploring the universal and the deeply personal. The multiple selves of Logan--represented figuratively by a toddler in a boat, a teenager, an adult, and an old man--are seen gathered on a lake, as Mountstuart attempts to come to grips with his life, the paths he took, the choices he made.

At times elegiac and heartbreaking, witty and droll, Any Human Heart makes us realize the patterns and stories in our own lives, as well as the passage of time that marches on as we too change and alter, marry or divorce, love and lose. Just as we see an England that changes over the course of nearly 100 years, we see the changes in ourselves as well. And that's the beauty and magic of this extraordinary piece of television, the way in which we can connect both to the other and to ourselves. It's not one to be missed. Just make sure you have some tissues nearby.

Any Human Heart begins Sunday evening at 9 pm ET/PT on PBS' Masterpiece Classic. Check your local listings for details.


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