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I laughed and I cried- superb drama and beautifully acted.
The book by Jaqueline Wilson was one of my favourite books as a kid, and still holds a special place in my heart. I watched The Illustrated Mum, knowing it would be good, and it was. No even better than that, it was superb. There were some funny parts and some genuinely heart-rending parts too. It is one of the best TV dramas I have ever seen, alongside Occupation(2009), Goodnight Mister Tom(1999), Gunrush(2009) and Buried Treasure(2001).
The Illustrated Mum tells the story of a bipolar mum Marigold, and her two daughters Star and Dolphin. The book was one of my favourites as a kid, because it was funny, it was heart-warming and it taught me a lot, plus the fact that Jaqueline Wilson was my favourite author around then may have something to do with it as well. Marigold is treated like an outcast outside the family, and although she is a truly lovable woman underneath, even her elder daughter starts to resent her. But Dolphin loves her mother the way she is.
There are many many reasons why I loved this drama adaptation so much. As far as I am concerned, while perhaps having one or two tweakings it was reasonably true to the book. Whereas there isn't always much of a plot, like in the book in some ways, one of the drama's biggest strengths was the quality of the script. There is an oft-tendency for dramas like this to fall into over-sentimentality, but the script here avoids that. It is funny, subtle, honest and I think heart-rending too.
Another definite plus was how it was filmed. The camera work, even for a TV drama was beautifully done, and the costumes and scenery were splendid. The music was just beautiful, and even added to the poignancy and power of the drama. Its haunting title theme, I can still remember. The direction was sensitive, and never too flashy or overdone. And in the drama there were plenty of memorable scenes, especially the ending, where I admit as a 17 year old I cried my eyes out, and the character of Mrs Luft is just as despicable as she is in the book.
The performances were exemplary from the entire cast. Nobody overplayed or underplayed their parts, they were just right. I know Michelle Collins only from EastEnders, and I was eager what she'd be like here. As Marigold, she is simply mesmerising, just like Marigold should be, warm, loving yet hopeful. Alice Connor proved herself a very worthy child actress, and she gives one of the best child performances I have ever seen in a drama, like in the book, you really empathised with Dolphin. Although she is young, Dolphin believes in her mother, and tries to be responsible for her. And Holly Grainger is perfect as Star, a girl who does clearly love her mother, but starts to resent her for being different. All the supporting turns were great, particularly Henry Cox as Oliver "Owly" Morris and Lisa George as Miss Hill.
Some of the points I have made in this review may be a little inaccurate. The bottom line is I really loved this adaptation of the Illustrated Mum. Instead of the overly-sentimental and mawkish drama it could've been, not only does it not spoil the book at all, but it is instead an appealing and honest drama, with plenty of poignant and heart-warming moments, that left me laughing and crying at the same time. In conclusion, a must-watch! 10/10 Bethany Cox
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