IANS Review: ‘Mrs Wilson’: A scandalous true story, well performed (IANS Rating: ***1/2)

Series: ‘Mrs Wilson’ (Streaming on Lionsgate Play); Duration: 57 minutes per episode (three episodes in all)

Director: Richard Laxton

Cast: Ruth Wilson, Iain Glen, Keeley Hawes, Elizabeth Rider, Anupam Kher, Fiona Shaw, Calam Lynch, Otto Farrant and Ian McElhinney.

IANS Rating: ***1/2This three-episode period drama is an extremely scandalous and captivating series to watch. It is the re-enactment of true-life events, based on the memoir of actress Ruth Wilson’s grandmother, Alison Wilson, which she wrote in the mid-1960s, to tell her sons the truth of their father, Alexander Wilson.

According to Alison, Alexander Wilson was a British soldier who fought the war and was an intelligence agent before becoming an author. He was a loving father to her two sons, Gordon and Nigel.

The pandora’s box opens after the death of Alexander Wilson when his first wife Gladys visits Alison to claim his mortal remains. Caught off guard, Alison refuses to believe that her marriage of twenty-odd years has no legal binding. Intertwined with her investigation, we see flashbacks of how she met the love of her life “Alec” during the war when they both worked for the Intelligence Services.

And as she methodically peals the layers of deceit that cocooned her life, we understand and feel the pain and suffering she is going through despite Alexander being a thoughtful and warm human being – who was adored by his sons, neighbours, and colleagues. Making matters worse for her is her degeneration as she lies to her sons to protect the image of their father.

While the tale of how Alex nurtured four families concurrently is intriguing as well as fascinating, it is the performances by the fabulous cast that is spellbinding.

With her stiff British upper lip, Ruth Wilson plays her grandmother Alison to perfection. She is so captivating which is hard to focus on anything beyond her. She is remarkable with the spontaneity she displays while slapping her son in anger when he jokingly remarks about having “a girl in every port”, or the silent realisation of seeing Alec’s familiar typewriter set-up in his first wife Glady’s home.

Alexander is made memorable by actor Iain Glen, who essays his role with gentle warmth. He is equally charming and compelling, and his on-screen chemistry with Ruth is undeniably palpable.

Fiona Shaw as the secret service agent Coleman, and Anupam Kher as Alec’s Indian handler Shahbaz Karim, are natural. They deliver a convincing performance.

Elizabeth Rider as Gladys, Keeley Hawes as Alec’s second wife Dorothy, Otto Farrant as Nigel, and Calam Lynch as Gordon all have their moments of on-screen glory.

At the end of the series, when we get to see the actual pictures of the entire Wilson family, we gawk with disbelief at the enormity of the factuality.

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