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Finding Alice, ITV review - thriller, comedy or melodrama? | reviews, news & interviews

Finding Alice, ITV review - thriller, comedy or melodrama?

Finding Alice, ITV review - thriller, comedy or melodrama?

Keeley Hawes leads a strong cast in no particular direction

Laugh or cry? Keeley Hawes and cast

Or, What The Durrells Did Next.

Or, What The Durrells Did Next. Writer Simon Nye, writer/director Roger Goldby and star Keeley Hawes are all veterans of ITV’s Corfu-based fantasy, and while Finding Alice superficially resembles a thriller, like its predecessor it’s more of an undemanding family melodrama once you’ve peeled away the wrapping.

Nonetheless, this opening episode (of six) radiated a distinctly whodunnit-ish aura. Our story began (after a brief flash-forward) with Alice Dillon (Keeley), daughter Charlotte (Isabella Papas) and Alice’s partner Harry (Jason Merrells) visiting the brand new house that property developer Harry had built for them, a modernistic electronically-powered “smart home” set in an agreeable rural landscape. At any moment you expected Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud to stride up the driveway, delivering a peroration to camera about the ambition and desirableness of the construction.

However, even before Alice had found out how to open the curtains or flush the hi-tech toilet, calamity struck, when she found Harry sprawled on the carpet, having fallen down the stairs. The family’s idyllic new future had been snuffed out before it had begun.

As the series develops, there’ll be various revelations about Harry’s business problems and his other life away from Alice. We got an early heads-up here when Alice discovered that Harry’s office had been ransacked by persons unknown, and by the sudden arrival on her doorstep of his previously unknown business partner, Janvi (Ayesha Dharker). As Harry’s assistant Yasmina (Dominique Moore) pointed out to Alice, predatory characters tend to gather round property developers because they’re always running out of money.

However, much of the story concerns Alice’s relationships with both her own parents and Harry’s. The show’s strongest suit is the strength in depth of its cast, with Joanna Lumley relishing her role as Alice’s scornful and dismissive mother Sarah and a hapless Nigel Havers as her dithering dad Roger (both pictured left). Harry’s parents aren’t greatly preferable, with his father Gerry a growling old curmudgeon (Kenneth Cranham, to the manner born) and his wife Minnie (Gemma Jones) suitably mouse-like and querulous.

I suppose Finding Alice is agreeable enough for a locked-down Sunday evening, but the dramatic gears never seem to mesh properly and the twee and syrupy background music is enough to get you chucking bottles at the TV. Keeley spends a lot of her time flapping about between tearful misery and hyperactive silliness, which prompts some jarring tonal clashes. For instance when she visits Harry’s corpse as it rests in the morgue, she accidentally intrudes on some other mourners and starts making bizarrely crass comments about how overweight their deceased relative is. Her sarcastic banter with the undertaker about what coffin they should use for Harry isn’t much better. Morgue technician Nathan, played by Rhashan Stone like an eccentric life coach and philosopher, feels like a spare part from a Richard Curtis script.

However, flashes of gratuitous brutality also intrude, as when both sets of parents are too stingy to lend Alice any money to tide her over, even though she has no access to Harry’s bank accounts. Even worse is the revelation that Harry had transferred the new house into his parents’ name, and they now propose to sell it to pay the inheritance tax bill.

Is Finding Alice a comedy? A tragedy? Several different scripts reluctantly lashed together? It’s difficult to say, but shouldn't be.

Comments

Please explain the "inheritance tax". Does this relate to Harry's death? Why is Gerry having to pay it? Everyone seems to accept Gerry's statements as fact - but are they true?

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