A complex, moving story of life in the big bad city, in this case London. The tragic, senseless, futile murder of a beautiful young woman, just embarking on her journey through life, acts ... See full summary »
A complex, moving story of life in the big bad city, in this case London. The tragic, senseless, futile murder of a beautiful young woman, just embarking on her journey through life, acts as a catalyst of change for a large and diverse group of people seemingly unconnected with this terrible event. As the ripples of change expand this group of people come under increasing pressure to face the harsh realities of their existence and turn away from the cosy fantasies they thought they knew. Some discover an inner strength that inspires them to better their lives and look to the future with hope but for others the overwhelming waves of despair and despondency push them ever nearer to the edge of the abyss. Watching it all with a jaundiced eye and a practiced put down, apparently aloof and untouched by events, is Gary Rickey, born Billy Rickey in the town of the same name, a London broad sheet food critic who doesn't seem to like food or it doesn't like him. However, even he cannot escape ... Written by
Mark Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Watching Holding On again, now it's finally appeared on DVD (albeit with a slightly edited end of part one, annoyingly) it has gone from being the best drama of the 90s to one that in many ways sums up all that was bad about the 90s.
It's a magnificent achievement, filled with incredible performances and poignant story lines, but there are one or two overall elements which for me slightly mar the end result.
Firstly, as with almost everything Marchant writes, the drama feels strangely cold. There is a serious lack of sympathy for any of the main characters: we feel for the more obvious targets such as Sally, Vicky and Tina, incidentally all beautiful young women whose world suddenly fall apart, but in particular the character of Claire is very difficult to warm to, as is Shaun. David Morrissey is clearly extremely talented and his descent into the depths is heartbreaking, but I didn't find it terribly believable that his ultra-scrupulous tax inspector would suddenly behave in such a manner, and Morrissey's performance in the early episodes is a little too Christopher Eccleston-like, rather too full of pomp and bluster.
Phil Daniels provides the weakest link in the saga as the character who holds it together. Not a great actor at the best of times, he is clearly here off the back of his success narrating Blur's Parklife, providing a ludicrous and grating voice-over which usually says absolutely nothing and shows all too clearly the risible influence of Britpop and Tarantino in its "profound words on trivial themes." Despite that, the closing monologue is brilliant and incredibly uplifting: therein lies another oddity about the series. It doesn't seem to make a single attempt to show the magic of London life, only its horror, and then after eight episodes of it suddenly ends telling us how, despite all this, it's a terrific place.
I was puzzled as to why we've not heard more from Fleur Mould who played Sally incidentally.
Despite these few nagging doubts, this is an incredible drama, and easily Marchant's best, especially in comparison with the equally unsympathetic but much less impressive Passer By. The camera work is brilliant throughout, Shergold fond of using single takes in the most technically demanding scenes. It does make me glad the 90s are over though: hearing songs like Design for Life in the background, and seeing a production so lacking in pity and so heavily influenced by Britpop makes me realise that, to me anyway, the 2000s are a better and more co-operative decade, with London in the grip of a more visible threat and yet strangely, feeling a nicer place too.
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