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Once Upon a Time: Valentine’s Day Viewing for the Rumplestiltskin (or Robert Carlyle) Fan

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Once Upon a Time’s Rumplestiltskin and his alter ego Mr. Gold are nothing if not complicated. This week’s “Skin Deep” episode further deepened this dual role played with such grace by Robert Carlyle. Casting him as Beauty’s Beast allowed us in to Rumple’s heart and the his yearning for love—even after he rejects it, sending Belle from his home, only to learn that she had been shunned and ultimately killed herself because of her association with him.

It’s a burden he carries even into modern-day Storybrooke, where he remembers and keenly feels this tragic episode in his life. It’s a completely romantic portrait, full of tragedy and pain. Sigh. Carlyle is simply brilliant showing Rumple’s anguish, even through those nearly-opaque contact lenses he must wear as Rumple. It’s a performance that’s both heartbreaking and powerful (double sigh).

Of course Mr. Carlyle is most known, I suppose, for his portraits of psychotics and other tough guys. Trainspotting, Cracker, Face, Ravenous, Hitler: The Origins of Evil, to name but a few. Even his Stargate Universe character of Dr. Nicholas Rush is more often manipulative and conniving than heroic—or romantic.

Carlyle is legendary for taking his roles very seriously, and with a few exceptions has chosen his roles with care and purpose, often with an eye to their political or social messages. But tomorrow is, after all, Valentine’s Day, so perhaps a little fluff is in order. And it is in that spirit, I  want to recommend a few of Mr. Carlyle’s more romantic film and television projects (in chronological order). Happy viewing!

Hamish Macbeth – As the title character, a laid-back hashish-smoking village constable, Carlyle couldn’t be further from his psychotic Begbie (Trainspotting). Made in the mid-‘90s, Hamish Macbeth is a comedy-drama series that ran for three seasons on the BBC.

Hamish’s love life is a total mess, and he is entangled with two women—one out of love, and the other out of obligation to a past relationship. But when he finally breaks it off with one of the women, it leads to tragedy. Of course you must watch the entire series run of 20 episodes at some point, but to tickle your romantic nature, watch first and final episodes of Series 1, then skip to “Radio Lochdubh” and it’s sequel “No Man is an Island” in Series 2. Finish off with the two-part finale “Destiny.”

Go Now – This 1995 film is virtually impossible to find (and is not available on DVD at all). But it can be found on the Internet if you are savvy enough to know where to look. (Of course, I’m not one to recommend Torrent searches, if you catch my drift…) This is one of the most overtly romantic films of Carlyle’s early career. He plays a young man who suddenly finds himself confronted with multiple sclerosis. Carlyle is amazing in the film, which is essentially a love story. It will leave you sobbing in parts and hot and bothered in others (yes there are several love scenes). If you can find it, Go Now is a tour de force performance and a gorgeous love story.

Carla’s Song – Ken Loach’s very political 1996 film is also a beautifully rendered, old-fashioned love story that has Glasgow bus driver George (Carlyle) pursuing a young, deeply troubled Nicaraguan dancer across the globe and into the hell of a civil war. The most difficult thing about watching this movie is the language. The Spanish spoken for long passages in the second half of the film is not subtitled (I’m guessing to give the viewer the same experience as George, who does not speak the language). Carlyle’s Glaswegian dialect, particularly at the very beginning of the film is also difficult for American ears to decipher, but it gets much easier to understand after the first 20 minutes or so. Even without understanding every word, it’s easy enough to get the gist of the movie through the acting of the two leads.

Face – I had a hard time deciding whether to include Antonia Bird’s little 1997 crime drama in my Valentine’s Day list, but I decided to include it because it is fundamentally a story driven by love and redemption. Carlyle plays Ray, a former political activist-turned armed robber. He’s come to a place in his life at 35, when this life of crime is beginning to weigh on him, and his girlfriend Connie (Lena Headey, Game of Thrones’ evil Cersei—talk about your evil queens!) is fed up with his profession. Ultimately it is her love (and a big wake-up call) that redeems Ray. Great ‘90s soundtrack as well!

About Barbara Barnett

Barbara Barnett is publisher and executive editor of Blogcritics, as well as a noted entertainment writer. Author of Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House, M.D., her primary beat is primetime television. But Barbara writes on an everything from film to politics to technology to all things pop culture and spirituality. She is a contributor to the book called Spiritual Pregnancy (Llewellyn Worldwide, January 2014) and has a story in Riverdale Ave Press' new anthology of zombie romance, Still Hungry for your Love. She is hard at work on what she hopes will be her first published novel.
  • sara2

    OMG Thank you very much Barbara, Robert is unique and unrepeatable.

  • Jacque

    Thank you, Barbara, for filmography review to gladden any Carlyle fan’s heart.

    While I’ve felt somewhat lukewarm towards Once Upon a Time, I’ve been absolutely *floored* by Carlyle’s rendition of Rumplestiltskin. He manages to be simultaneously creepy and adorable. And the episode “Skin Deep” is just heartbreaking.

    It’s a surprisingly deep examination of the perils of love: Let this person in and risk everything I’ve sacrificed for? Or shut them out, keep my power, and be always and forever Alone?

    And, of course, it cuts to the core of that question far too many of us face: Is it really possible for someone–especially someone I could love–to really ever love me. Especially if they knew the *real* me.

    If Carlyle doesn’t pull down an Emmy for this role, there’s something seriously wrong with this universe.

  • Elezabeth

    Jacque … I must agree with you 100%.

    I’m captivated by the duality and complexity of the story-line(s), the use of Fairy Tales and Fables, the amazing grand costuming (of course … tis my forte afterall), the make-up, hair styling, staging that takes you through StoryBrook or back in time, etc., etc., … but more than this, I am completely “taken” by Robert Carlyle’s portrayal/version of Mr. Gold and Rumplestiltskin.  Might say … “he had me at Hello” or is it: “Dearie”. :0)  

    I am so infatuated by / in-love with the time period where men were great defenders, were protective, carried swords, dressed in “poet” shirts, wore knee high boots, body hugging vests/jackets and bowed in such a way they could have easily stolen my heart.

    Deep sigh …

    Ahhh … Once Upon A Time in a land Far Far Away


  • angelia y cosby

    Robertcarylehaythisisangelia y cosbyiloveyouiwont iyouisawyouladoverbelli am badat youiamyyourgirldontlitmesee thatagangilyou