Monday, 9 December 2019

Elizabeth is Missing - BBC TV review

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 30/11/2019 - Programme Name: Elizabeth Is Missing - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. n/a) - Picture Shows:  Maud (GLENDA JACKSON) - (C) STV Productions - Photographer: Mark Mainz

As soon as I heard that Glenda Jackson was going to play the lead role in the BBC TV version of Emma Healey's brilliant novel Elizabeth is Missing, I felt sure that it was the most perfect piece of casting. And so it proved. Jackson was fantastic as Maud, the elderly woman with dementia who becomes obsessed about the disappearance of her best friend. She's convinced something bad has happened to Elizabeth, but nobody believes her.

The past becomes intertwined with the present, and the screenplay by Andrea Gibb impressed me, even though some important aspects of Healey's storyline were lost. This was a necessary sacrifice because the TV version ran only for 90 minutes, and on the whole this made a refreshing change from the present day pattern of storylines stretched out interminably beyond their natural length in order to make a six or eight part series (I've seen several of these this year and have mostly not bothered to review them, because the format makes one lose the will to live).

No such danger here. When I reviewed the book here back in March 2017 I talked about the poignancy of the story and this element came over, if anything, even more powerfully in the visual medium. We see Maud's mind slowly disintegrating and the love of her daughter and grand-daughter, although powerless to halt the progress of the disease, remind us of the innate compassion of so many devoted family members struggling to cope with a terrible situation.

The whodunit plot seems, at times, almost incidental, but it isn't really. The outcome of the story is a triumphant vindication of Maud and her persistence, and even if it's inevitable that her memory will continue to deteriorate, it is - as far as it can be - a happy ending. But a realistic one. A television triumph. 

1 comment:

Pam McClure said...

I hope it comes to BritBox so I can see it.