That age-old question writers can’t help asking – what would you do for love – crops up again in this new two-part existential drama about a normal couple facing a terrible, life-changing decision.
Extras and Ugly Betty star Ashley Jensen takes a somewhat darker route for her first starring TV role. She plays credit referencing company telephone jockey Sally Wilson, an overworked, underpaid former nurse who, out-of-the-blue, hears she stands to inherit £5 million from a complete stranger. This money would pay for expensive, life-saving foreign medical care for her terminally-ill daughter Amanda (Sophie Stuckey), not to mention set up her and her partner Mark (Max Beesley) for life. There’s one catch, though, as a Ghostface/Jigsaw voice booms out of a CD player: to inherit the money, she must first kill a stranger whom she is told deserves their fate.
Tough choice, eh? This ambitious plot perhaps belongs more in the guise of a low-key Hollywood thriller than the small screen (the open scene of a jodhpur-clad businesswoman stabbing a stranger to death is pure celluloid). Still, there’s something about the very normal lives (and small-scale British suburbia) of Sally and Mark that accentuate the madness of their high-concept predicament as they realise there’s more than meets the eye to this chain of events.
Of course, this modern-day morality play has a clear sense of crime and punishment (to reference the book that the writer may like to be compared to), with Jensen as the moral core for the audience to empathise with. This caring mother and hard-working, honest heroine is wisely lent depth when we learn of a somewhat checkered past, and that old stones/glass houses conundrum comes interestingly into play.
Screened to warm critical reception recently on ITV1, The Reckoning shows Jensen has the range and everywoman charm to pull off serious lead roles, rather than her usual lighter fare. Despite a few glaring ends that need tying up (again sticking with Hollywood’s leanings toward clunky writing), as well as some ends tied too easily, this remains a solid few hours of thought-provoking entertainment.
Released on DVD on Monday 25th April 2011 by FremantleMedia Enterprises.