Ammonite creates a fictional love story for real-life paleontologist Mary Anning. Anning devoted her life to digging fossils of sea creatures out of the muck and mud around Lime Regis on the southern coast of England. Because she lived in the early 1800s, the credit for her work was taken by men. She’s only recently come into the public consciousness.Continue Reading: Review: Ammonite
Like any true fan of Sally Wainwright’s writing, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the series Gentleman Jack. Episode 1 aired last night: I’ll take a look at a few of the things that struck me about the first episode.Continue Reading: Gentleman Jack: A Look at Episode 1
I’m quite excited about Gentleman Jack. It’s an 8 hour historical drama series about Anne Lister, one of England’s earliest out lesbians. It’s written by Sally Wainwright. It stars Suranne Jones. Could anything get better than that?Continue Reading: Watch This: Trailer for Gentleman Jack – UPDATED
A comment from a reader sent me on a hunt for The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister, which I found on Amazon Video. This 2010 BBC film introduced me to “the first modern lesbian in British history,” and sent me searching through references on Wikipedia.
Bridget Jones’s Baby is the third in the Bridget Jones saga starring Renée Zellweger. Bridget Jones’s story is significant because it has been a woman-fronted comedy success story for 15 years. Continue Reading: Watch This: Trailer for Bridget Jones’s Baby
There’s a great article in The Daily Mail titled “Why the stars of our best TV dramas are suddenly all middle-aged women: At long last, this is grown-up television” that talks about many of my favorite actresses and shows – including Nicola Walker.
Nicola Walker is my particular topic today. Walker is currently starring in two British dramas showing in the UK. She plays a police officer in both. One is River from BBC One, which will be on Netflix internationally starting November 18. The other is Unforgotten. It’s currently on iTV. I don’t know if it will be brought across the pond. If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.
Let’s start with River. The 6 part series stars Stellan Skarsgård and Nicola Walker. Skarsgård is a melancholy, grieving cop named River. Walker is his former partner DS Jackie “Stevie” Stevenson. Former partner (spoiler alert) in this case meaning Stevie is dead and gone. She’s gone for everyone but River, who sees her and other characters he’s investigating. River interacts with these “manifestations” as if they were there.
Real life Stevie was sassy and saucy and bright. River carries on conversations with her, listens to her sing, but seems insane to those around him. Most people would consider him insane. The only reason he’s still with the police is his 80% rate of closing crimes.
River was written by Abi Morgan.
Here’s the trailer.
In Unforgotten, Walker is the lead character, a compassionate police officer who lives with her father. She’s investigating a decades old crime in which the bones of a young man are found under a demolished house. Sanjeev Bhaskar is her partner. Chris Lang is the creator of this 6 part drama.
As DCI Cassie Stuart, Walker plays a character who is quiet and thoughtful. She runs her department with calm, rewarding good work with generous praise and sending officers to investigate with a minimum of fuss. We see her relationship with her father develop through the episodes, especially when her father reveals some long hidden secrets about her mother.
The 4 main suspects in the crime range through all aspects of British society. This series has a big cast with many faces you will probably recognize including Gemma Jones and Tom Courtenay.
Here’s the preview for Unforgotten.
Other than the fact that Nicola Walker does brilliant work in both series, the two stories have little in common. Well, she’s a cop in both series. I heartily recommend you watch them both if you get a chance.
Many people know Nicola Walker from her role as Ruth in MI5. She’s also been in recent favorites including Scott & Bailey and Last Tango in Halifax.
The final episode of season 2 of Last Tango in Halifax lurches to a grim beginning and works its way through a lot of laughs to a mostly happy season conclusion.
On the farm, the morning after her confession to Caroline (Sarah Lancashire), Gillian (Nicola Walker) prods Caroline awake.
Caroline struggles to sit up. Gillian asks immediately, before Caroline is even upright, if she is going to turn her in to the police.
They are both wrecked, hungover, puffy. They look beautiful: real and honest. They conduct a raw, open discussion of the humiliations Eddie did to Gillian. Gillian says, “If I hadn’t done it to him, Caroline, he would have done it to me.”
Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) spent the night at Muriel’s (Gemma Jones). They’re having breakfast when Murial suggests she’d like to do some sort of hen party for Celia the night before the wedding.
Celia and Alan tease Muriel about wanting a wild night – in Amsterdam – with strippers and lap dancers and pole dancing. Muriel says she doesn’t mind going to Amsterdam for the art galleries. Alan and Celia have a hilarious conversation at Muriel’s expense.
Caroline and Gillian move to the table – nursing their hangovers with tea – still processing Gillian’s confession. Caroline thinks Gillian told her because she needed to tell someone.
Caroline asks if Gillian wants her to turn her in. “No. No.” Gillian says, “Now I’ve buggered everything up.”
Caroline says, “I’m not going to turn you in.”
Celia and Alan drive away from Muriel’s. In spite of their teasing, they like the idea of a stag night for Alan and a hen night for Celia. Celia even plans to invite Muriel.
Caroline and Gillian drive to the hotel where they left the Land Rover and Caroline’s phone the night before.
Kate (Nina Sosayna) arrives at Caroline’s house with Lawrence (Louis Greatorex) in tow. He called Kate the night before when John (Tony Gardner) disappeared on him. Kate says he left messages for his mother about where he was but refused to call John.
John offers lame excuses for why he went out, leaving Lawrence alone. The home phone rings.
Caroline shouts, “Where’s Lawrence!” John says he’s fine, minimizes the whole event and shuts the door in Kate’s face. Kate stares at the door, says, “No problem. Anytime.”
Caroline calls John an idiot. He tells her that Lawrence slept at Kate’s, an idea suggested by William.
Caroline hangs up. Before she leaves the hotel, she turns to Gillian. “I think you’re right about you and Robbie.”
“Yeah, I really like him,” Gillian answers.
“No. You said it could never be a good idea – you and him. Move on. You’re a nice person, you’re a good mother, you work hard. Something appalling happened. Move on. If I’m keeping a secret for you, you need to stay away from him. Surely you can see that.”
When Caroline reaches her home in Harrogate, John is still hanging about fixing soup for Lawrence. John tells her that Judith (Ronni Ancona) won’t get rid of the baby. Caroline says, “You’ll be divorced. You could marry her.” John says that won’t be happening.
Caroline gets cleaned up and takes flowers to Kate, to say thank you about Lawrence. Caroline asks Kate if she can come in.
She asks if Kate has a birthing partner (yes, her mum) and if Kate has anyone (no).
Caroline wanders nervously through a story approximating what she did the previous night and why she didn’t respond to Lawrence until she gets to her real point. Caroline and Kate had something really nice between them, Caroline says, and asks one more time for Kate to take her back. She promises to do better.
“No. Thank you.” Kate answers gently. From my seat, I don’t see how she can resist the painful pleading in Caroline’s eyes, but she is firm in her refusal. Kate’s breaking Caroline’s heart and mine, too.
Alan and Harry (Paul Copley) explain an elaborate plan for Alan’s stag night involving an overnight trip on Harry’s boat which will bring them to the hotel by 10 AM. Harry’s boat needs a lot of work before then.
Celia tells them that her party with Caroline, Gillian and Muriel will be paintballing. She’s not serious, but Harry wants to go to her party.
Later, Caroline and her mom are in the kitchen at Harrogate. Celia suggests maybe John could walk her down the aisle – give her away. Caroline gives all the reasons why that can’t be. She mentions all the tricks Celia has played on John over the years.
Celia has a good laugh remembering the time John snapped all the tendons in his ankle, the time she let all the air out of his tires, and some other wonderful memories which eventually prove to her that John wouldn’t be the best choice for walking her down the aisle.
Harry and Alan are in Halifax, figuring out their speeches for the wedding and what stories Harry is permitted to tell about Alan.
Gillian enters and says she wants to go to the cemetery tomorrow for her mum’s birthday.
Next day Alan and Gillian sit on a bench at the cemetery with little Calamity in a carrier. Alan admits that when his renters didn’t have enough money to buy his house, he didn’t have the heart to toss them out to put the house on the market. That’s why the deal on the bungalow fell through. Gillian thinks he’s always been too kind for his own good.
Gillian goes off to the grave of an uncle who was killed in the war. Alan has a graveside chat with his dead wife and says he hopes she approves of him getting wed again. Why didn’t he do this months ago, if it needed doing?
Like a blessing, a gust of wind blows flowers from a tree where Alan is standing. They rain around him like snow. He catches one blossom in his hand and takes it as a sign.
A montage covering several months shows us Harry and Alan working on the boat with Celia’s assistance, shows us Caroline alone and lonely, shows us Gillian alone and lonely, and finally a boat that is ready for use.
Near Christmas, Caroline learns that Kate’s gone to the hospital with some bleeding. Caroline rushes off to be with her. She finds Kate sitting alone in the waiting room. Caroline sits down beside her. They don’t touch.
Caroline assures Kate that she’s fine. She’s 20+ weeks now. However, four miscarriages would make anybody jumpy and Kate is scared. When they call Kate back she allows Caroline to go with her.
Kate clutches Caroline’s hand as they begin the ultrasound. As Caroline looks at the ultrasound readout with Kate’s hand in hers, we see a light in Caroline’s eyes for the first time in months. Kate’s fine. The baby is fine. Kate asks about sex and learns the baby is female. As Kate relaxes from her fears, she realizes she’s holding Caroline’s hand and drops it, saying, “Sorry.” Out goes the light in Caroline’s eyes.
Caroline, Lawrence, Alan and Celia have dinner in Harrogate. Alan explains that his brother Ted can’t make the wedding because he broke a leg.
Celia wants Caroline to call Kate about the wedding because she offered to play “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” for it. Caroline tells Celia to call Kate herself.
William arrives home from Oxford, with his laundry, and sits down at the table. William’s looking very grown up with a new hair cut. He has a girlfriend he wants to bring to the wedding.
Lawrence says, “Does she know you’re a puff?” and William says “I’ve been meaning to break this to you, and I know you’ll be disappointed, but I’m not gay.”
Alan, Lawrence and William whisper some secret plan when the woman are clearing the table. Ted (Timothy West) calls and Alan talks to him about the weather as Gillian sneaks him in Caroline’s door.
Alan jumps up in surprise, hugs his brother. They laugh about how surprised and happy they are that he made it. Ted hugs Celia and grabs her ass. “Always a handful!”
Alan, Ted, Harry, Raff (Josh Bolt) and Robbie (Dean Andrews) share drinks at Alan’s stag party. As they laugh at silly jokes, Alan suggests to Robbie that he and Gillian should get back together. Raff agrees.
The hen party is more elegant but just as funny. It includes Celia, Muriel, Caroline and Gillian.
I’ve been waiting for a serious scene between the formidable duo of Anne Reid and Gemma Jones. We finally get it when Caroline and Gillian go off to the restroom together.
Celia tells her sister how miserable her marriage was. Muriel knows that Celia has never forgiven her for Frank but she’s truly glad that Celia is happy now. It might be the first honest conversation Celia’s had with Muriel in years.
The wedding scenes begin with a shot of Kate’s fingers on a piano keyboard. Celia looks lovely but I don’t like what Caroline and Gillian are wearing. (Nicola Walker didn’t like the dress either.) Caroline walks her mom down the aisle.
As Alan and Celia recite their vows (which Anne Reid does with extraordinary meaning, I must say) we see everyone’s reactions to the words. Gillian looks troubled, Caroline is stealing glances at Kate, Kate is stealing glances at Caroline, Robbie’s date looks hopeful while Robbie steals glances at Gillian. Kate plays them out with a ragtime tune and the party begins.
At the party, Caroline gives a beautiful speech that reflects my thoughts about Celia and Alan’s story exactly. Harry gives a charming speech. When it’s Alan’s turn to speak, he takes the microphone and leaves the table. No one knows what he’s doing.
Alan performs a song and dance, complete with backup dancers and singers attired in kilts. The lyrics are “If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?” The song is perfect – funny and embarrassing – and the party is off to a great start.
Time to dance! Alan and Celia dance every dance. They do dance beautifully together, don’t they?
Kate comes up to Caroline and says she’s going. Kate says, “Have a nice Christmas.”
“How likely is that?” Caroline asks, then immediately regrets it. “Sorry. You . . . you have a nice Christmas, too.” Kate leaves the party.
Caroline and Gillian sit at a table, partnerless. It’s a beautiful party, but it’s passing them by. Gillian decides to cut in on Robbie for a dance. “Not Robbie,” says Caroline, but Gillian does it. A brief conversation and Robbie pulls her close.
Roberta Flack’s romantic version of “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” plays and everyone snuggles in a slow dance.
Kate returns. She marches across the dance floor to stand in front of a surprised Caroline. “I got in, shut the door and turned round and came straight back. Do you want to dance?”
Their situations reversed, Caroline is the insecure one now. She wants to know if this is “forever” and Kate quips, “forever’s a mighty long time.”
The moment they’re close and touching, they kiss. A long, lingering, very public kiss. Lawrence covers his eyes, Gillian smiles, William beams, Muriel isn’t appalled, Alan is happy, and Celia groans. Caroline and Kate are oblivious to anything but each other.
There’s a beautiful exterior shot of the hotel, laced with snow early the next morning – Christmas day – and a room tour of the still snoozing guests.
Alan and Celia hold hands as they spoon.
Caroline and Kate finally shared a room at the hotel.
Cut for a beat to John and Judith, who are passed out on Judith’s couch with empty bottles littering the table in front of them.
Gillian wakes up in the hotel with Robbie and wonders what fresh hell she’s gotten herself into now.
Season 2 closes with smiles, some story lines tied up with gaily colored ribbons, and a few tempting issues to make us eager for season 3.
Bravo. Bravo to the cast and crew. Bravo to Sally Wainwright for her wonderful storytelling. Bravo!
Episode 5 of Last Tango in Halifax begins in Harrogate where the Elliots are packing a car with William’s (Edward Ashley) things as he sets off for Oxford.
A for sale sign is outside the driveway. John (Tony Gardner) and Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) take a moment to share a rancorous discussion about their divorce papers as John carries out William’s luggage.
Everyone comes outside to see William off, including Celia (Anne Reid) and Alan (Derek Jacobi) who are making tea in the cottage. Hugs and handshakes and Lawrence’s (Louis Greatorex), “Finally we get rid of him,” and William is off with John driving.
Caroline looks torn as her eldest drives away from the nest to begin college. Celia follows her down the driveway as the car disappears and wraps her in a hug. “Big day,” Celia says.
They talk about mundane things for a moment. Celia says she and Alan are going to Ripponden to help with the baby. She says, “It’s a shame that bungalow fell through.”
Caroline asks about Celia’s wedding plans. Celia says they are on hold because of Alan’s brother Ted in New Zealand. They can’t plan a date around all of them who want to come from there.
Celia wants to know if there have been any inquiries about the house. Caroline says not this week.
Caroline walks into the kitchen and stands there, utterly alone. Beautiful image, even though it’s full of pain. This kitchen, with its big window, has been a wonderful frame for some lovely shots, but this one is exceptional.
At the farm Ellie (Katherine Rose Morley) hands off the baby, dirty nappy and all, to Raff (Josh Bolt). He passes the baby to Gillian (Nicola Walker) for burping and a diaper change.
Everyone calls the baby Calamity. Gillian says, “Calamity, is there no end to your shining wealth of talents,” in regard to her dirty nappy. In spite of everything that’s wrong in Gillian’s life, and there’s plenty wrong, little Emily Jane makes her happy. Perhaps she sees a bit of redemption in her grandchild’s eyes.
Ellie has moved in at the farm, with cash coming from her mother to help out. Raff says he, Ellie and Calamity are eating at Robbie’s that night. Cheryl is cooking. (Cheryl? Who is Cheryl?)
The two young people leave for school and Gillian is alone with the baby.
Kate (Nina Sosanya) enters Caroline’s office. She sits down across the desk from Caroline and tells her she’s pregnant. She’s past 12 weeks now and is cautiously thinking about the future. She asks for arrangements to be made for her to work part time after the baby comes. Caroline asks for time to work out the logistics.
As Kate is leaving, Caroline says, “Congratulation.” Kate smiles and says, “Thank you,” but Caroline cannot look at her.
As soon as Kate closes the door, Caroline begins to cry.
Gillian loads a trailer with sheep as Alan and Celia arrive. She tells them the baby is with Harry (Paul Copley) down at the wharf. Celia goes inside to use the bathroom. Gillian tells Alan the relatives in New Zealand keep Skyping about a date to come to the wedding. Alan says Celia won’t set a date, but his story isn’t like Celia’s on this topic. He says it’s because of Celia’s sister, Muriel.
At the wharf, Harry has a boat where he plans to live. He’s going to install a stove, a satellite dish, and a drinks cabinet.
He says losing Maurice made him want to seize the day. He wants to take them for a spin and Alan is ready to jump aboard. Celia grabs Alan’s coattails and won’t let him go. She tells Harry he’s a dozy old sod. I’m not sure what that means, but I don’t think it’s a compliment.
Alan and Celia have dinner at the farm with Gillian. Gillian tells them Robbie (Dean Andrews) has a new girlfriend named Cheryl. She’s a cop like Robbie, blonde, gorgeous and 15 years younger than him. Celia talks about John being back with Judith like a bad habit.
Gillian says, “Celia, tell me about your sister. I didn’t know you had a sister. Shame the wedding plans have got bogged down because of her.”
Celia says it’s because of Ted. No, says Gillian. There’s no problem with Ted coming from New Zealand. You set a date, they turn up. Celia isn’t thrilled about her daughter-in-law calling her bluff.
Caroline and Lawrence are having a quiet dinner. He asks if he can move in with his dad. Caroline thinks this is a bad idea, but Lawrence says at least his dad isn’t boring. Before they can finish talking about Lawrence’s idea, Gillian calls.
Gillian tells Caroline that the wedding is bogged down. Caroline says, yeah because of Ted. No says Gillian, it’s because of Muriel. She wants to move it along for her dad’s sake.
Caroline says she’s not surprised. Muriel and her mom are chalk and cheese. Gillian asks Caroline to ring Muriel so they can get things moving. Caroline says it will be complicated.
Gillian goes into the living room where Celia and Alan are playing Trivial Pursuit. Celia says, “Sherlock Holmes, the Beatles, Shakespeare,” before Alan even reads the question because that’s the answer to everything.
Gillian suggests she and Caroline organize the wedding. They can check out venues, make up an invite list. Gillian says Celia can cross anyone out. Celia agrees just as her phone rings. It’s Muriel (Gemma Jones). Celia answers with false cheer.
Celia speaks with apparent warmth to Muriel, but it looks forced. Muriel is enthusiastic about Alan Buttershaw and how wonderful everything is. She asks when the wedding is. Celia says she and Alan were going to pop down to tell her all about it. That’s news to Alan.
Meanwhile Caroline calls back and tells Gillian that Muriel didn’t even know about the wedding. She says she will have to face Armageddon with Celia because of letting Muriel know. Gillian tells Caroline that she offered to organize the wedding. Caroline hesitates but Gillian convinces her to help.
Alone in their bedroom later, Celia complains about Muriel finding out. Alan says if you don’t want her at the wedding, we won’t invite her. Celia says why wouldn’t she want her there. Alan says, “It’s an impression you’ve given.”
Celia has a long list of old resentments about Muriel, which she airs to Alan.
In Harrogate, John arrives. He’s supposed to be taking Lawrence for the weekend.
John says, “Just so you’re aware. Judith’s pregnant.” Caroline says, “How? Is it yours? Does she want it?” He stumbles and stutters a lot, and says things may be a little bit fraught and it isn’t a good weekend to take Lawrence. Lawrence gets in the car and won’t be moved.
Caroline goes to the farm. She arrives just as Robbie and his new girlfriend Cheryl (Rachel Leskovac) are leaving with Raff, Ellie and the baby.
Caroline endears herself to Gillian by pronouncing Cheryl annoying. Caroline wants to take Gillian to lunch.
They pull into the same hotel where Caroline took Kate, but they are there to consider it as a possible venue for the wedding. They sit down for drinks and Caroline tells Gillian that Muriel stole a boy named Frank from her mom when they were younger. She married him. That’s two women who stole men from Celia. Ouch. And Celia does hold tight to her resentments.
A wedding planner gives them brochures and offers to take them round to look at the venue after lunch.
At Muriel’s, Celia and Alan conduct a conversation in the car, as they are prone to do. Celia doesn’t want her sister to know that her marriage was unhappy. She doesn’t want her sister to know that Caroline plays on the girl’s team. Both Alan and I find Muriel perfectly acceptable, but every word poor Muriel utters irritates Celia.
Over tea, Muriel thinks Celia must be proud of William, wants to know what Alan’s daughter does, wants to know about Caroline and John and is full of questions. When she leaves to make more tea Celia says, “I don’t know how much more of this I can take.”
The wedding planner shows Caroline and Gillian around, talks about deals, offers them champagne. They’ve already been drinking wine at lunch.
Judith (Ronni Ancona) tries to work as John and Lawrence watch TV in her tiny flat. She can’t concentrate and goes out. Lawrence thinks she’s too old to be pregnant. John follows Judith out the door, ostensibly because she shouldn’t be drinking.
The conversation at Muriel’s moved to the garden, where they talk about Harry. Alan says he and Harry share a great grandchild, which makes Muriel ask about Raff still being in school and irritates Celia even more.
Caroline calls Celia to explain that she thinks Celia would love the hotel as a venue. The only available date is December 24. As Caroline is talking to her mother, Gillian realizes that the waiters and the wedding planner think that she and Caroline are the ones getting married. Celia asks Caroline to email photos as Gillian goes into a contagious giggling fit.
“They think you and I are getting married,” Gillian giggles. She acts coquettish with her hair, and says, “I’m going to finish with you if you aren’t careful.” Caroline continues the conversation with her mum by punctuating it with laughter, and can hardly say goodbye to her mother before she and Gillian burst out in loud guffaws. Another toast with champagne seems in order.
By nightfall, Gillian and Caroline must take a cab to the farm because they are both too drunk to drive.
Lawrence calls his mom and asks to be picked up because his dad is gone. He says, “I”m sorry I said you were boring.” Caroline’s forgotten her phone at the hotel bar so she doesn’t get his message.
At the farm, Gillian and Caroline flop on the couch side by side. Gillian asks what happened with Kate. Caroline says, “I booked two separate rooms for our romantic getaway.”
“You did not,” says Gillian.
Caroline says she’s tried to apologize but Kate won’t listen. “I really blew it. I only realize now how lovely it was. How precious. Now I’m in this box with bad written on it. But I’m not bad, just arrogant . . . inept . . . selfish . . . repressed . . . emotionally crippled.”
“What about you and Robbie?” Caroline asks. Gillian sits up, goes for more liquor.
Celia and Alan study the emailed photos of the hotel. Alan also looks at the photos on Muriel’s bedroom wall, including ones of Kenneth and Frank. He says Muriel seems fond of Celia, even though Celia isn’t fond of her. Celia drags out even more resentments about her sister. Alan has a more mature point of view. In a stroke of brilliance, he tells Celia that Muriel is very plain compared with her and hasn’t made him laugh even once.
Judith and John arrive back at her flat in the midst of a drunken argument. Lawrence is not there.
In Halifax, Gillian tells Caroline about going out with Robbie early on. She says she’s always been fond of him. But she says it will never work with Robbie.
“I’ve never told anyone this,” Gillian says.
“Don’t tell me something you’re gonna regret.”
“I want to tell. I . . . I murdered him. Eddie. The only proper family Robbie ever had. I murdered him.”
Gillian talks about her marriage to Eddie. He beat her, pinned her down and burned her with cigarettes. She says she’s shed blood in every room of this house. He knocked her teeth out. He humiliated her in ways she won’t name. Caroline listens without speaking, but her face says volumes. Gillian thinks her Dad and Robbie know there was more to it than what she told the police.
Nicola Walker is stunning in this scene. Stunning. In a show filled with outstanding actors and acting, this powerful scene stands out. Amazing performances from both Nicola Walker and Sarah Lancashire.
In the morning Gillian wakes up on a couch in her living room. Caroline is asleep on the other. Gillian runs to the kitchen and throws up.
She turns to look at Caroline with terror on her face as she remembers what she confessed the night before.
The precipitating moment setting off the story of Last Tango in Halifax was the reunion of Celia and Alan. Alan leaving the farm set off a chain of external events for Gillian, leading directly to last night’s confession. Caroline’s journey, on the other hand, is internal. It began before Celia and Alan even found each other. Caroline and Gillian have been yin and yang every step of the way.
Yet, here they are, because of their parents, telling each other things they’ve never said to anyone before.