After her father dies, Botswanan Precious Ramotse decides to sell her inheritance - 180 cows - and move to the capital Gaborone and open a detective agency. From a young age her father had trained her to develop her memory skills and she has a keen sense of observation. Business is slow, but Precious soon has a secretary, Grace Makutsi and fits in well with her neighbors. Slowly, clients begin to trickle in: a woman who thinks the man who claims to be her father - he had abandoned the family when she was just a young child - is actually an impostor; a woman who thinks her husband is having an affair - a view Grace enthusiastically generally supports since she thinks all men are liars and cheaters; and a factory owner who thinks an employee claiming compensation for an accident is scamming him. Her interest is also drawn to the case of a missing boy but she she must face a powerful local gangster to get the information she needs. Written by
I was unfamiliar with the source novel so it was with a mixture of interest and curiosity that I tuned in to view this feature-length introduction to a full TV series to come in 2009. The main tag-line in the advance promotion concerned the key involvement of TV/cinema big-hitters, the late Anthony Minghella as co-producer / director and Richard Curtis as screenplay writer. Although I've had my reservations on both before now, (both in fact have in the past seemed to me slightly over-sentimental and melodramatic in their treatments of subject matter), these traits are refreshingly absent from this light and entertaining confection. I will point out though that some of their trademark devices were apparent even in this out-of-the-way production, like Minghella's penchant for sweeping airborne exposition shots, most famously recalled from "The English Patient" and is it just me that can draw a line between one of Curtis' most famous TV comedy creations, Dawn French as "The Vicar of Dibley" in presenting the lead character as a buxom, independent woman making it in a man's world... Well, maybe, maybe not. Anyway I found this feature to be highly entertaining, if quirky, and altogether preferable to the BBC's tired and played out costume dramas (the over-rated "Cranford" springs readily to mind). The cinematography is as you'd expect, excellent, ditto the screenplay, nicely peppered with witty one-liners. The costumes too are lovely, colourful prints and checks very much to the fore! The cast of characters is well played, all memorable in their own way, from the starchy new secretary, effeminate neighbouring hairdresser and doting middle-aged mechanic, all in Precious' corner as employees and/or supporters, to the diverse clientèle who cross our heroine's path, most memorably a Lothario-type adulterous husband, fake parasitical "father" and in particular the more sinister drug-baron who thinks nothing of threatening children to get his evil way. By the end of the 100 minutes viewing time, Jill Scott (excellent in the lead part) as Precious has solved the intertwined three or four small mysteries and one big one (a child's kidnapping) in comedic or dramatic circumstances. The show in summary could be crudely reduced to an African / female "Rockford Files" and was rightly slotted into TV schedules, being not quite strong enough, in my opinion, for cinematic release, but was still one of the more entertaining, if offbeat programmes I've watched on the BBC in many a long day.
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