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‘Elizabeth Is Missing’ Review: Glenda Jackson’s Return to TV

‘Elizabeth Is Lacking’ Evaluate: Glenda Jackson’s Return to TV

The BBC tv film “Elizabeth Is Lacking” — a stand-alone episode of “Masterpiece” on PBS this Sunday — accommodates Glenda Jackson’s first display screen efficiency since 1992. That actually deserves consideration — Jackson, now 84, is among the most technically completed and ferociously clever actresses of our time. Did it advantage the rapturous British evaluations on its launch in 2019 and maybe inevitable awards, together with a BAFTA and a global Emmy, that she acquired for it? Probably not, but it surely isn’t Jackson’s fault.

You possibly can see the attraction to Jackson of “Elizabeth Is Lacking,” which was tailored by the actress and author Andrea Gibb from a thriller novel by Emma Healey. The central character, Maud, who’s shifting from forgetfulness into dementia, is onscreen just about the complete time, whether or not within the current or as her teenage self (performed by Liv Hill) in a parallel story line set 70 years in the past. The progress of the movie largely takes place by means of Jackson’s twofold embodiment of Maud’s decline and of her cussed, typically offended battle to delay and deny it.

The story places Maud in a scenario filled with dramatic promise: her greatest buddy, Elizabeth, has instantly disappeared, and Maud is set to search out her regardless of the inconvenient undeniable fact that she will’t persuade anybody that Elizabeth is definitely gone. Scrawling notes to herself about Elizabeth’s glasses and a few suspiciously damaged vases, Maud carries on her investigation in matches and begins, choosing it up once more at any time when she remembers that Elizabeth is lacking.

It’s an incredible setup for an easy thriller, however “Elizabeth Is Lacking” is extra difficult than that, and when you can’t maintain that ambition in opposition to it, you may want that you just had been watching one thing less complicated. Maud’s seek for Elizabeth is woven along with the disappearance of Maud’s married older sister in 1950. Occasions within the current and previous regularly combine in Maud’s thoughts, her reminiscences triggered by objects or phrases in methods which are clever and a bit too self-conscious.

The mystery-novel construction of the story seems to be each a feint and a actuality, one thing that turns into predictable pretty early on and is disappointing within the closing end result. We’re presupposed to be getting a deeper satisfaction from the detailed depiction of Maud and her affliction, and the neatly organized thematic resonance between the 2 story traces, revolving round what it actually means to be lacking.

However regardless of the efforts of the proficient director Aisling Walsh (“Maudie”), who offers the movie a welcome restraint and readability, “Elizabeth Is Lacking” doesn’t hit the mark — the screenplay is just too fussy and tough, and the decision to the dual mysteries, with its combined notes of heroism and resignation, isn’t convincing. (Walsh’s closing picture, an extended shot of Maud crossing a road alone in mourning garments, has an influence missing in the remainder of the movie.)

However as you could possibly anticipate, it accommodates a largely faultless efficiency by Jackson, one which’s actually price 87 minutes of your viewing time. (It may additionally remind you that regardless of Jackson’s stature, and a few excessive factors like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and “The Return of the Soldier,” her display screen résumé isn’t all that distinguished.)

She doesn’t play for our sympathy — she leans into the character’s frustration and irascibility, making it clear how troublesome she is to take care of. And she or he communicates Maud’s flickering moods and perceptions exactly and indelibly, in the way in which she briskly faucets a notecard when Maud makes a connection or in a fast, shattering second when she silently screams with frustration at a restaurant, acutely aware of not making (an excessive amount of of) a scene. Maud might not come absolutely alive within the script, however there’s nothing lacking in Jackson’s portrayal.

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