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Published on November 24th, 2014 | by Bean

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“Remember Me” Review – Michael Palin’s BBC Ghost Story

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The BBC’s atmospheric offering, “Remember Me” started promisingly this evening, with a brooding first episode. Opportunities to enjoy Michael Palin’s darker side are few and far between these days, so to say I was intrigued by the possibilities for this three-part drama would be showing uncustomary restraint. Couple that with the inclusion of Mark Addy, who made a welcome return last week as the increasingly heroic Hercules on BBC’s Saturday evening romp “Atlantis”, here turning his hand to a diffident detective past his prime, and the pot of my anticipation was simmering.
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Centering around the oddly pre-meditated departure of Palin’s Tom Parfitt, an “80-odd” bachelor, from his home to a local care facility, “Remember Me” builds it’s first act tensions nicely; the cold open of a trio of characters starting their day in respectively disparate circumstances is intercut with the disturbing recollections of Tom and a drowned figure rising from the wet sands. The beautiful cinematography balances the cozy facade of suburban comfort with the bleak truths of the Yorkshire landscapes, all drizzling gloom and encroaching thunderclouds.

Billed variously as a contemporary ghost story or a psychological horror, the tone of “Remember Me” allows for both ends of the spectrum, though it plays most convincingly and garners the most chills when it takes it’s time. The unnecessary tendency post-Ringu for supernatural creatures to incur silly fast-forward-fright qualities does show up here, accompanied by the obligatory screechy noises such editing choices seem to demand. Until this point nerves had been stretched taut by the delicious slow-build of creaking floorboards, blink-and-you’ll-miss details (the hats in the photo), and a moody score.

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As is customary in tales of hauntings, the house itself is a character, with idiosyncrasies that all tell stories; the dripping tap, the photographs and the weirdly horrifying horde of sheet music. Each room makes up part of the secret, with the attic holding the key to the mystery. These traditional features feel fresh, despite their time-honoured quality, because each are imbued with such depth within the narrative; the suitcase, a conduit for much of the dread, isn’t simply black inside. It’s void of light.

Palin, whose usual vibrancy is strictly downplayed here, has taken on a Horden-like quality that lends itself naturally to this genre, with the latter being a stalwart of, among others, adaptations of M.R.James’ Christmas ghost stories; “Remember Me” has distinct undertones of James’ “Whistle and I’ll Come To You Lad”. Palin embodies the eccentricities of Tom Parfitt like a man, by turns, steeling himself to break out of prison, revelling in the freedom of it all, and then instantly understanding the gravity of what he’s done, even if we don’t. That things so rapidly accelerate to death and danger only increases the jeopardy, and the sense of terrible foreboding as things spiral from his control.

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Addy’s tendency to the lighter side of things is usefully dimmed too, and he brings a put-upon exhaustion to a decidedly timorous role. But the real linchpin is Jodie Comer’s care assistant Hannah Ward, a girl with responsibilities beyond her years, well used to living around the difficulties of grief. Comer is compellingly kind and open; an innocent in the face of the horrors to come. As characters so often do in horror stories, Hannah finds her inquisitive nature opening doors she shouldn’t have by the close of episode 1. What’s at the end of the end? What have they unleashed?

 

Review by Nina Clark

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Bean

Director at Nina Clark Music / The Musical Walkabout at Nina Clark Music
Bean is the family nickname of Nina Clark, singer, songwriter and professional musician. Nina's many nerdly passions, aside from music, include Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead and all things Whedon. (re. GoT, she has NOT read the books, so please be cool - no spoilers!)
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