Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Marian, Again (2005)

Remember your first love? The person who, when you were with them, you thought anything was possible, the person who made you feel alive like no other?

Now imagine that one day that person just disappeared out of your life, no fall out, no recrimination, no goodbye, nothing. Just vanished into thin air. 

In the intervening years you've built yourself a new life, met someone else, got over that person, learnt to let the mystery subside in your mind.

Now imagine that fifteen years later that person is right there in front of you on the street, claiming not to know you from Adam and that she isn't the person you believe her to be. 

That's the intriguing set up from Marian, Again; a dark and unsettling thriller from ITV made in 2005 and based on an amalgamation of several, horrific true stories.

Stephen Tompkinson stars as teacher and married father of three Chris Bevan who, fifteen years after the disappearance of his first, true love, encounters her on the street once again. Except Marian Walsh (Kelly Harrison) has no answers as to the reasoning behind her sudden departure all those years ago and claims not only not to know him but that her name is actually Susie. What Bevan doesn't know is that after a date with her one night, Marian was abducted off the street by Bernie (Owen Teale) a plumber and aspiring magician, who was a regular at her father's hardware shop, where he bought equipment for both his trade and his hobby. 

At Bernie's hands, Marian has endured years of physical and mental torture, spending much of her time locked in the cellar behind a cupboard and in a closet.  Using her vulnerable, terrified state, Bernie has brainwashed and groomed Marian into becoming Susie, and a shadow of her former self.  He is told her that he has paid a mysterious, violent overseeing organisation known as 'The Network' a considerable amount of money to keep her safe from their deadly plans and that she must behave and bend to his will or her family will be murdered, buried alive by them.  When she admits as much to Steve he is immediately critical - how can a kidnap victim go out shopping?  In trying to piece together the mystery, it quickly becomes a lot more difficult and more personal than he first suspected, when Bernie spies a potential successor for Susie in Chris' eldest teenage daughter. 

This is a gripping psychological chiller based on the real life kidnappings of Colleen Stan (who was kidnapped, tortured and locked in a box for 23 hours a day, groomed on fear of 'The Company', a powerful organisation who would kill her if she misbehaved) and Natascha Kampusch (an Austrian who was kidnapped at the age of 10 and locked in a small cellar space, similar to Marian's, before her escape 8 years later) As ever, Tompkinson is great as the ordinary guy who tries to make sense of the situation, whilst Owen Teale is suitably creepy and physically imposing as the cruel and twisted Bernie. But it is perhaps Kelly Harrison, an actress who had started out as a model (and appeared as herself in the fly-on-the-wall 'soap' Paddington Green) before spending three years on the perennial BBC hospital drama Casualty. Marian, Again was her first major relatively lead role in the wake of leaving the BBC drama and I cannot see how she didn't go on to bigger, central roles as a result of this.  She totally convinces, both as the carefree, live wire that is Marian in the flashbacks and as the timid, terrified captive Susie.

Ten years on from my first watch, Marian, Again may look a teensy bit dated in terms of today's TV movies (it's often drowned by an unnecessary score - a common complaint with TV from this period) but it remains a deeply absorbing and uncomfortable watch and is available to view on YouTube. Be warned though, its content may not be for everyone.

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