REMEMBER ME - Benji Wilson, The Telegraph

Posted on 23rd Nov 2014

It’s been more than two decades since Michael Palin played it straight in a lead TV role, and so at first I thought Remember Me (BBC One, Sunday) might have been an ironic title. But from the first scene you could see why Palin had chosen to make his grand re-entrance with the character of Tom Parfitt. Tom couldn’t have been less Palin-like: he was older, craggier, more jittery and quite possibly losing it – or he was up to something sinister. In any case Tom was not someone you’d trust to get from one side of the room to the other, let alone from Pole to Pole. 

When Tom took himself off to an old people’s home and then was the only one in the room when a woman fell out of the window, the nicest man on TV had, in the space of about 10 minutes, become one of the most unnerving.

The camera had spent a great deal of that 10 minutes observing Palin in close-up, as if asking us to analyse his performance. Initially I thought that the great man was doing too much, as if in his time away he hadn’t heard of HD and how TV acting now requires very little facial movement at all. His twitches were too twitchy, his agitation too stagy.

But it soon became apparent that Tom had plenty to be agitated about, because Remember Me is looking like a ghost story, and the ghost may or may not be inside Tom’s head.

The return of the ghost story, by the by, is a welcome development: realism has become the default mode in TV, which has meant bringing anything of the supernatural into a story can quite easily look idiotic. If I list some of the things that were going on in this introductory episode it does indeed sound a little hokey – dripping taps, a shrouded figure in the shadows, a crying corpse, creaking floorboards. But by the time the hour was up I was, if not chilled to the bone, decidedly frosty to the touch.

I won’t claim to know exactly what was haunting Palin and the excellent Jodie Comer as the girl from the nursing home who’d befriended him. If I did know what it was at the end of part one then writer Gwyneth Hughes would have failed. But a combination of clever direction, disorienting photography and a brilliant, subtle score that would none the less blast you with atonal blobs of sound from time to time meant that already Remember Me is proving distinctly hard to forget.

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