Mideast drama worth the effort
YOU cannot escape your past. And no one is exactly who and what he or she appears to be. These are the two most urgent messages in The Honourable Woman, a meticulously crafted eight-part political potboiler that has its Canadian première Monday at 9 p.m. on CBC. And what’s interesting is that while the lessons it offers about human nature are rather pointed, the storyline in which they’re carried unfolds with little urgency. That isn’t to say that The Honourable Woman lacks suspense or thrilling, jaw-drop-inducing moments; it does. But the overall pacing of this Brit-import drama is quite reserved, which creates for viewers an odd combination of sit-back-and-relax immersion and edge-of-the-seat stress. The Honourable Woman in question is Nessa Stein (played by a flawlessly English-accented Maggie Gyllenhaal), the grown daughter of an Anglo-Israeli arms dealer who was assassinated right in front of her when she was a child. Three decades later, she is a woman of substance in British society — she has just been appointed to the House of Lords, a testament to the influence she has had on foreign relations as head of the family business. She has transformed the multinational corporation; instead of weapons, it deals in information technology and, under Nessa’s leadership, its focus has become the installation of high-tech cable and wireless networks throughout Israel and the West Bank. Access to information, she declares in a speech, is one of the key deterrents to terrorism. Outwardly, Nessa is the picture of confidence and determination; we begin to see, however, through a series of flashbacks that offer glimpses of several earlier chapters of her life, that the coolness with which she comports herself is probably nothing more than a well-rehearsed act.