Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle
IN SALLY Wainright’s tense thriller, Unforgiven, Suranne Jones plays Ruth Slater, a 32-year-old woman newly released from prison after serving a 15 year sentence for murdering two policeman. As well as adjusting to life in the outside world, Ruth dreams of being reunited with her younger sister Katie (Emily Beecham), who was adopted after her her conviction.
As well as Katie’s adoptive parents (Douglas Hodge and Jemma Redgrave) and ‘sister’ Emily (Flora Spencer-Longhurst), there’s John (Peter Davison) and his wife Izzie (Siobhan Finneran) whose farmhouse appears to be haunted; and brothers, Steve and Kieran Whelan (Matthew McNulty and Jack Deam) who share the same woman’s sexual favours – Steve’s wife’s!
Three seemingly unrelated storylines, they cleverly come together to reveal part of Ruth’s story – the murders took place in John and Izzie’s home, and one of the murdered policeman was Steve and Kieran’s father. Moreover, when news of Ruth’s release is made known, Steve in particular is determined to avenge his father’s death.
Without exception, the cast is superb but it’s Jones who really shines as a woman haunted by the past and desperate to win back Katie’s love. But what makes her performance so compelling is her ability to convey true depth of feeling with facial expressions and body language – which shows just how far she’s come since leaving Coronation Street.
Special mention must also go to McNulty whose portrayal of a son still grieving for his father is totally convincing, never more so than in the tense and riveting climax of his obsessive quest for justice, when anger, frustration and common decency (fundamentally, he’s not a bad person) merge with tragic consequences.
Although details of the actual murders don’t emerge for some considerable time, I, like many, had already begun to suspect the truth – it has, after all, been done before. Yet even so, the revellation when it finally comes loses none of its impact, exposing as it does the real Ruth – so much so in fact, that her final scene with Katie moved me almost to tears.
Unforgiven doesn’t have a happy Hollywood-style ending. Instead, it opts for realism and for that it must be congratulated. However, it’s not without hope and, given the circumstances, that’s exactly as it should be.
A compelling drama, Unforgiven is British television at its very best and really shouldn’t be missed.