Get swept off your feet with tale of time­less love

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

OVELY” isn’t a term used all that of­ten to de­scribe TV shows.

Per­haps it’s too quaint, a bit an­ti­quated, and not in keep­ing with the hip/edgy/provoca­tive na­ture of the cur­rent crop of boundary-push­ing dra­mas that are the fo­cus of most crit­i­cal re­views these days. Maybe it’s an ad­jec­tive whose best years are be­hind it.

For today’s TV col­umn, how­ever, it feels like just ex­actly the right word, be­cause my good­ness, Last Tango in Hal­i­fax is a lovely tele­vi­sion pro­gram.

This new Brit-im­port drama, which pre­mières Sun­day at 8 p.m., on PBS, is as warm and charm­ing and cap­ti­vat­ing and in­spir­ing and, well, as lovely as any TV pro­gram could pos­si­bly be. It’s a beau­ti­fully writ­ten and flaw­lessly per­formed cel­e­bra­tion of the time­less na­ture of love, and it cer­tainly de­serves con­sid­er­a­tion in any dis­cus­sion of this fall’s best new prime-time pro­grams.

Last Tango in Hal­i­fax stars Sir Derek Ja­cobi ( The Bor­gias, The King’s Speech) and Anne Reid ( Up­stairs, Down­stairs) as Alan and Celia, a pair of wid­owed 70-some­things who courted briefly way back when they were teenagers in the early 1950s.

Each has se­cretly car­ried a torch for the other since a not-quite-ran­dom turn of events sent their lives spin­ning in sep­a­rate di­rec­tions, and now, fully six decades later, fate and luck and, thanks to their grand­kids’ prod­ding,

Star­ring Sir Derek Ja­cobi and Anne Reid Sun­day at 8 p.m. PBS

out of five Face­book have brought them back to­gether.

At first, both Alan and Celia are a bit coy when they de­scribe the new “pen­pal” re­la­tion­ship they’ve cul­ti­vated on­line. Per­haps it’s a means to keep their med­dle­some daugh­ters from ask­ing too many ques­tions; more likely, how­ever, the vague de­scrip­tions they each of­fer about this per­son they sort of think they might kind of re­mem­ber from way back when are a gen­tle way of shield­ing their own hearts from dis­ap­point­ment should it turn out the other is, 60 years down life’s wind­ing road, ei­ther un­in­ter­ested or un­in­ter­est­ing.

Se­cretly, how­ever, each has vivid mem­o­ries of the other and can’t wait for an op­por­tu­nity to meet face to face. And when they fi­nally do, well, it’s magic.

Be­cause of their shared his­tory, it can’t be de­scribed as love at first sight, but what hap­pens when Alan and Celia get to­gether is some­thing very spe­cial. There’s a won­der and an un­re­strained joy to the re­union, and the longer they talk, the more they’re able to open up about the feel­ings they’ve har­boured for each other all these years.

It doesn’t take long for Alan and Celia to de­cide they be­long to­gether and that, given their ages, they should get down to the busi­ness of be­ing in love as quickly as pos­si­ble.

It also doesn’t take long for their daugh­ters — Caro­line (Sarah Lan­cashire), Celia’s am­bi­tious and tightly wound off­spring, and Gil­lian (Nicola Walker), Alan’s world-weary and tooy­oung-wid­owed daugh­ter — to de­clare this new­found “love” as a tri­fle, a pass­ing fancy that the silly old folks will soon leave be­hind.

There’s noth­ing silly about it, of course. The silli­ness, and most of the sad­ness, in Last Tango in Hal­i­fax is found in the sub­plots in­volv­ing the over-com­pli­cated lives of the younger folks. For Alan and Celia, what this is about is the en­durance and end­less pos­si­bil­i­ties of love.

The screen­play for this six-part se­ries, writ­ten by Sally Wain­wright, is a re­strained and thought­ful mas­ter­piece, but most of the credit for Last Tango’s charm be­longs to Ja­cobi and Reid, who fill each scene they share with per­fect, won­der­ful mo­ments.

There’s a del­i­cate in­tri­cacy to their work here; much of the act­ing they do in­volves close-ups in which each is re­act­ing word­lessly to a thought or an feel­ing the other has un­earthed or rekin­dled. Watch­ing this pair of ex­pe­ri­enced hands ex­plore their char­ac­ters’ emo­tions is a rare treat be­cause ev­ery beat and ev­ery nuance is per­fectly, gen­uinely de­liv­ered.

It’s love, plain and sim­ple. And it’s lovely.

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