Qaulity adult TV drama with a brilliant central performance.
, 27 Jan 2009
I must confess to a parochial interest in ITV drama Unforgiven .It was shot in and around my home town of Halifax and the writer Sally Wainwright is not only from Sowerby Bridge where i currently reside but was in the same year as me at Secondary School though obviously she made better use of her time there.
I must confess her previous works (Jane Hall, At Home With The Braithwaite's, Playing The Field) have held little interest for me but Unforgiven , an adult drama concerning themes of redemption, guilt , revenge and family ties seemed more like my cup of tea. And so it proved for Unforgiven aired over three separate Monday 1 hour episodes turned out to be the most compelling British drama i have seen for some time .
Ruth Slater ( Suranne Jones) is released from prison after serving 15 years for the murder of two policemen gunned down when they came to help bailiffs evict her and her younger sister from their remote family farmhouse 'Upper Hanging Stones Farm'. Her sister, re-named Lucy Belcombe ( Emily Beecham) has now been adopted and is living in York. Ruth wants to contact her and is helped in this by lawyer John Ingram ( Peter Davison ) against the wishes of his wife Izzy (Siobhan Finneran) after he hears her tale and takes pity on her .They have bought the farmhouse where Ruth used to live and Johns help offers her hope of redemption, something that is hard to come as she struggles to integrate back into a normal work and home life. This is not the worst she will face however.. The sons of one of the unfortunate policemen Steve Whelan ( Matthew McNulty ) and Kieran Whelan (Jack Deam) are in vengeful mood and on hearing that Ruth is out plot the best way to inflict it .
Despite the plot occasionally relying too much on coincidences and the gaping plot flaw that a murderer would never be released and housed back into the community where he/she had committed their crime Unforgiven seemed to me a realistic uncompromising work. The script crucially avoids sermonising and lets the viewer make their own mind up how they feel about Ruth. The eventual truth about that happened on the day of the shooting is never signposted but i guessed what had actually happened ...he harrumphed smugly .However it makes the resolution even more moving .
Where the series really triumphs though is in the performances. The whole cast are good but Suranne Jones as the haunted Ruth is a revelation. Her troubled visage , not an unattractive one it must be said, has stayed with me for days after each episode and her body hunched over like she is forever expecting some form of violent or verbal attack is a masterpiece of physical acting . Each mood passes palpably across her face seemingly in synch with the brooding changeable Pennine weather. Even her Yorkshire accent is spot on. Putting aside her roles in cak like Harley Street in any right thinking world Suranne Jones would be festooned with awards for her portrayal of Ruth Slater. Without doubt the best acting i have seen from a female performer for yonks.....since Natalie Portman in Closer in fact
Unforgiven has a seemingly spurious sub-plot about the farm house being haunted . But you see it is haunted...by Ruth and by what happened there 15 years ago. Compelling well written , well acted adult dramas are a rarity , especially over here, but Unforgiven emphatically bucks the trend.
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