Elizabeth Is Missing brings Glenda Jackson back to TV for the first time in 27 years since 1992’s The Secret Life of Arnold Bax in a drama where, as Maud, her best friend, Elizabeth (Maggie Steed), with whom she regularly hangs out for shopping and gardening, has disappeared into the ether.
This leads to her going back 60 years in her mind to when she was a young woman and her memories are shown as flashbacks with the characters playing out in front of her. She’s played in 1949 by Jellyfish‘s Liv Hill, and remembers her times with her sister Sukey (Sophie Rundle), who also has a separate, engaging, story to play out.
Just addressing that, Ms Jackson has a face that can paint 1000 words and I would love it if she comes back for more telly, because she can feel the pain from within as the younger characters appear right in front of her and she desperately wants to turn the clock back, but then don’t we all?
For the present day, the problems begin when she goes to meet her friend, Elizabeth, at the Salvation Army charity shop where she used to work, but don’t bother trying to find her, she’s not there. This leads to showing the real trials and tribulations of getting older, as well as the fact that dementia is setting in, so she requires reminders around the house, such as “coffee helps memory“, while at the same time, she’s overbuying tinned peach slices because she can’t remember she bought them the day before.
Some random moments stood out:
- Her granddaughter, Katy (Nell Williams), has ripped tights, to which Elizabeth observes, “Did you fall over?“, and that’s the sort of thing that springs to my mind, too, when I see ripped jeans. I don’t understand those.
- It’s also odd when carer Carla (Linda Hargreaves) puts Maud to bed when it’s late afternoon at best. I can see what she’s trying to achieve, but it’s not what anyone would want to do in reality.
- And at one point, Katy sees something online about how ‘music therapy’ can help with dementia, so suggests playing some Vera Lynn, but finds that Maud is the one person who *doesn’t* like her.
Overall, Elizabeth Is Missing is a really clever drama, the way it mixes the past with the present, and while watching this, it made me think that if they ever made a drama with Glenda as she is now, and also herself at around 40, she could be played by Anna Maxwell Martin.
Plus, as well as the leading lady, major kudos goes to both Liv Hill, as the young Maud, and Michelle Duncan as Maud’s very put-upon daughter, Ma.
Elizabeth Is Missing is now available to watch on the BBC iPlayer.
Director: Aisling Walsh
Producer: Chrissy Skinns
Writer: Andrea Gibb
Maud: Glenda Jackson
Young Maud: Liv Hill
Sukey: Sophie Rundle
Ma: Michelle Duncan
Katy: Nell Williams
Tom: Sam Hazeldine
Frank: Mark Stanley
Douglas: Neil Pendleton
Helen: Helen Behan
Elizabeth: Maggie Steed
Carla: Linda Hargreaves
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.