Marian, Again (2005)


UK. 2005.


Director – David Drury, Teleplay – Ben Court & Caroline Ip, Producer – Steve Lightfoot, Photography – Mark Waters, Music – Alan Parker, Special Effects Supervisor – Ian Rowley, Production Design – Jacqueline Smith. Production Company – Company Pictures/Isle of Man Film


Stephen Tompkinson (Chris Bevan), Owen Teale (Bernie Sullivan), Kelly Harrison (Marian Walsh/Suzie Sullivan), Samantha Beckinsale (Josie Bevan), Katie Ross (Olivia Bevan), Stuart McQuarrie (Jim), Grace Cassidy (Esme Bevan), Amy Lythgoe (Tilly Bevan), Natalie Richards (Frances), Paul Copley (Phillip Walsh)


Chris Bevan is a Manchester schoolteacher who is happily married with three daughters. One day in the supermarket, he thinks he sees Marian Walsh, his girlfriend who abruptly vanished fifteen years before, but she vanishes. He becomes obsessed with finding her. He tracks down the house where the woman he saw lives but she tells him that he is mistaken and she is not Marian. What Chris does not know is that after he dropped Marian off back in 1990, she was locked out of the house by her father for coming home late and was then abducted by plumber and amateur magician Bernie Sullivan who locked her in a box in his basement. Her spirit has become so broken after years there that she has forgotten about her life as Marian and believes that she is Bernie’s wife Suzie. In trying to find out more about what happened to Marian, Chris fakes a plumbing accident in his house and calls Bernie around. However, while there, Bernie sees Chris’s thirteen year-old daughter Olivia and copies her cellphone number. He then starts anonymously calling her and sending her presents, seeking to groom her as a replacement for Marian.

Marian, Again is a thriller mini-series produced for British television. Co-writers Ben Court and Caroline Ip had previously written the thriller The Hole (2001) and would subsequently write Cracks (2009) and episodes of the tv series Whitechapel (2009-13).

At the outset, Marian, Again seems to be starting in as a thriller about a missing woman along the lines of films like The Vanishing (1988) and Waking the Dead (2000). It starts with deceptive ordinariness and comes to slowly absorb one. Things take a turn for the decidedly perverse when Owen Teale is called around by Stephen Tompkinson and we then see him straying into teenage daughter Katie Ross’s room and stealing her cellphone number. From this point Marian, Again is propelled into a dark thriller about the two men’s obsessions. Both men’s obsessions are made to keep mirroring one another – Stephen Tompkinson is obsessed with his ex-girlfriend/Owen Teale’s wife and Teale with Tompkinson’s daughter, with both men seen to be lying to their wives and becoming quite stalkerish in furtherance of their obsessions. The fact that the objects of the other’s obsession is right under the other’s nose is played with a constant irony. There is one perfect image where we see Stephen Tompkinson on the street outside watching Owen Teale at the window using his cellphone, not realising that it is to his own daughter that Teale is texting. In another darkly ironic scene, Kelly Harrison keeps trying to call Stephen Tompkinson for help but is unable to find her voice once she picks the phone up and he keeps thinking that it is his daughter’s stalker calling and responds angrily.

Director David Drury throws up a number of good shocks – like the opening of the second part where we see Kelly Harrison tied to a chair with a stainless steel muzzle over her head. The mini-series length does draw the story out – one suspects that Marian, Again might have worked much more tightly if it had been made as a feature film – but as it is the show has a considerable grip and David Drury works it all to a well-sustained climax.

On a level of subtext, the mini-series is like a large warning sign for teenage girls about Stranger Danger. The story gives us not just one girl – Katie Ross as Stephen Tompkinson’s daughter but also Kelly Harrison during the flashback scenes – who have their trust manipulated and abused by a predatory stranger. The script goes through a gamut of issues of parental concern for teenage girls – being out late at night, getting into cars with strangers, meeting anonymous people from cellphone calls, allowing people to have one’s number, placing too much trust in those that use sweet words.

What makes Marian, Again work is the highly credible performances from all the cast. Stephen Tompkinson is suitably gormless in the central role, while those cast as his family play with a completely convincing naturalism. Owen Teale gives a performance of dangerous meanness. Perhaps one of the most extraordinary performances is the dual two that come from Kelly Harrison in the title role. When you contrast the bubbly carefree teenager that we see in the flashbacks with the mousy, frightened Suzie that we see in the present, the chameleon shift that she undergoes seems to be one where she has almost entirely assumed a new personality, body and even put on fifteen years.

Marian, Again makes claim to be based on a true story, although it is not clear which one that the opening titles are referring to. There have been several cases of similar imprisonment. The production company’s publicity department have failed to respond to my queries asking about this.

Part 2 here:-

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