Saturday, 20 December 2014

Olive Kitteridge (2014)

Olive Kitteridge is the story of a misanthropic, strict, but well-meaning, retired schoolteacher who lives in the fictional seaside town of Crosby, Maine. She is married to Henry Kitteridge, a kind, considerate man who runs a pharmacy downtown, and has a troubled son named Christopher, who grows up to be a podiatrist. For 25 years, Olive has experienced problems of depression, bereavement, jealousy, and friction with family members and friends.

This four hour, two part mini series based on Elizabeth Strout's novel is a melancholic, elegiac tale of lives half lived and strained relations with underlying issues and feelings that dare not be spoken whilst the theme of death, especially suicide, permeates throughout the narrative and its duration. The drama is languorous and muted which means you need to have a degree of patience to see where it is going and what it has to offer, but if you invest in it the characters and their perfect playing, combined with a distinctive take on small town somewhat repressed life, pay off most satisfyingly. It's also surprisingly funny in places.

Frances McDormand is - as ever -  sublime in the titular role, managing to tease out some surprising, strong compassion and empathy for such a starchy character, but it was Richard Jenkins and Zoe Kazan who really impressed me initially in the first half; The gentle good naturedness of Jenkins' character Henry Kitteridge was palpably at odds with the prickliness of his wife played by McDormand, whilst Kazan was suitably ditzy and sweetly loveable as Henry's co-worker, the tragic Denise. There's also strong support from John Gallagher Jr of The Newsroom as Henry and Olive's son, Christopher and, in minor but important roles, Peter Mullan and Bill Murray.

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