TV Review: Mrs Wilson

Ruth Wilson excels in the intriguing Mrs Wilson, a drama that couldn’t possibly be true…

“You know all you need to know”

Mrs Wilson begins with ‘the following is inspired by real events’ but the truth is even more than that, as main protagonist Alison Wilson is played by Ruth Wilson, who just happens to be her granddaughter. For the story is taken from the extraordinary revelations of her own family history and adapted into a three-part serial here, which is marvellously tense and beautifully filmed.

We begin on an ordinary day in the early 60s as Alison nips home from her job to make a lunch of cold cuts for her novelist husband Alec. He doesn’t make it down to the table though as he’s kicked the bucket and instantly, hints of mystery abound as she hides his wallet and makes a surreptitious phone call. What she doesn’t expect is the knock on the door a few days later from a woman who claim to be his wife.

And the shocks don’t end there as Alison discovers that Alec had a Pandora’s box of secrets hidden away, revelation after revelation picks away at what she thought she knew of her husband. At the same time, we flashback to key moments in their marriage where, with hindsight, Alison realises that so many things that merely seemed odd now make more of a terrible kind of sense.

Wilson is customarily fantastic in showing off Alison as a truly well-rounded character. It maybe him who is the bigamist but this is her story and as other families pop up and shake the steady ground she’d built for herself, the struggles in maintaining her own family is no less painful. The refusal to share the truth with them, the encouragement to main stiff upper lips, this is post-war society at its repressed best – decorum at all costs.

There’s great supporting work from Glen as the husband to many who suggests much even if the details of Alec’s life remain necessarily hazy and Fiona Shaw as Coleman, his handler. And Barbara Marten’s pinched but not uncompassionate mother is a vivid presence for Alison to turn to as crisis overlays crisis (ooh that Keeley Hawes…). An intriguing and interesting drama. 

Photos: Peter Marley & Steffan Hill/BBC/©WP Films Ltd

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