Saturday 7 July 2018

Alias Grace

This is an interesting little mini-series, now showing on Netflix, about a girl called Grace who, in the 19th century, was whisked across the Atlantic to Canada by her family as a child for a new life away from Ireland. It is based on a true story and made into a best selling book by Margaret Atwood (of 'The Handmaid's Tale' fame).

She tells her story throughout from a therapist's chair inside a jail as a doctor tries to establish whether or not Grace is 'insane' with a view to getting her pardoned from a prison sentence for a murder (or two). As the story unfolds, the six 40 minute episodes hold the viewer in some suspense as to what actually happened and is drawn through her life story, the abuse she has suffered, events that happened (or didn't!) and difficulties endured.

It's easy to get on her side and assume that she's not guilty, but the narrative just holds the viewer back from getting fully on-board with that sympathetic conclusion by dripping the details and history out drop by drop. The outcomes are not obvious, nor straight forward and it's worth sticking with the series as it delivers an engaging story. It's also an interesting snapshot of the time and period that these people had to negotiate life through, harsh and unfair for many, privileged and cosy for some.

There's nothing to visit here in my opinion in terms of direction, sets, photography and so forth - in fact it sometimes comes across as a made-for-TV outing, which, I guess, one could argue, it is! But credit should go to Sarah Gadon (A Dangerous Method, 11.22.63) for playing the title role with convincing command, supported by Anna Paquin (The Piano, Amistad, True Blood) and others, most adequately. I'd recommend it for two or three cosy nights in round the log fire whilst it's snowing outside!

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