Children's author Stephen Lewis is shopping with 4-year old daughter Kate when she suddenly disappears. Failure to find her puts a strain on his marriage, his wife Julie leaving to live in a seaside village, though Stephen regularly visits her. Stephen continues to write but is asked by the prime minister to check on his best friend Charles Dark, who has resigned his cabinet membership to live in an isolated woodland retreat with his wife Thelma. Stephen is perturbed by Charles' apparent regression to childhood, reminding him of his own loss and, returning to London, erroneously believes that another little girl is Kate. Three years after the disappearance Thelma asks Stephen, still keeping Kate's room for her, for help with the increasingly disturbed Charles, leading to a shocking discovery though a later phone call from Julie provides a new beginning for them both.Written by
don @ minifie-1
What a strange TV film this was and I have to say I didn't get it at all. The big story was the abduction of a well-connected London couple's four year old daughter whilst out shopping with her father, played hand-wringingly seriously by Benedict Cumberbatch. There's never any doubt at all that she will ever be found and so the piece becomes an extended study in grief and loss and its effect on the relationship between the parents. But there's another altogether stranger story intermixed into the plot as Cumberbatch's best friend and publisher, the Prime Minister's spin doctor, approaching burn-out, gives up his city and Westminster life to retreat with his devoted wife to the country but where instead of recharging his batteries he regresses to his childhood on his way to a nervous breakdown and beyond.
I just wasn't convinced by any of it. Cumberbatch and his wife, played by Kelly MacDonald separate after their daughter's disappearance but in their first meeting in months inevitably end up in bed. Both of them seem to have visions of children in their midst, culminating in Cumberbatch's big breakdown scene when he mistakes a young schoolgirl for his Katie and finally realises in the process that she's never coming back.
There are a number of peripheral characters who flit in and out of the narrative like the female teacher who befriends Cumberbatch while they attend a Commons Committee on children's education and his mother who witters on about imagining her unborn son being present at a small-town bar before she'd even conceived him.
There's plenty more of that kind of weirdness, like the suspicious behaviour of the Prime Minister and Home Secretary over their aide's dropping out, said aide's running about the countryside in short trousers like he's on "The Coral Island", Cumberbatch's aforementioned teacher friend who cuts her head en route to his house and nosily discovers his untouched "shrine" to his absent daughter...
I wasn't convinced by the situations portrayed or the back and forth treatment of time which I found tricksy and confusing. As for the performances, you could literally see Cumberbatch and McDonald acting and not very impressively at that, while in the writing, I found nothing credible in what was depicted with the dialogue falling unnaturally from everyone's lips.
And as for the restorative, I won't go quite so far as to say happy, ending, it's entirely predictable and wholly unconvincing.
I don't know, maybe it was adapted from one of those impossible-to-dramatise modern novels, I hear about. All I know is that I wasn't moved or touched by anything I saw in this production and frequently looked away from the screen in embarrassment at the gaucheness I was witnessing.
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