Se­crets and lies

BBC History Magazine - - Tv & Radio -

Mrs Wil­son DVD (Spirit En­ter­tain­ment, cer­tifi­cate 15)

In April 1963, the writer Alexan­der ‘Alec’ Wil­son died of a heart at­tack. His event­ful life had en­com­passed teach­ing English lit­er­a­ture in In­dia, work with the in­tel­li­gence ser­vices in the Se­cond World War and suc­cess as a spy novelist. He also found time to marry four times, yet ap­par­ently didn’t have the time to get di­vorced, mak­ing Wil­son a se­rial bigamist.

Even to­day, many of the de­tails of his life are sketchy, in part be­cause the au­thor­i­ties have yet to re­lease records re­lated to his se­cret work. Nev­er­the­less, enough is known to make for com­pelling drama – as this BBC se­ries star­ring Ruth Wil­son as Ali­son, Alec Wil­son’s third wife and Ruth’s own grand­mother, demon­strates. Told largely in flash­back, the drama be­gins with the death of Wil­son (Iain Glen), soon fol­lowed by the shock of his first wife, Gla­dys Wil­son (El­iz­a­beth Rider), pay­ing Ali­son a visit. Sud­denly uncer­tain as to whether she re­ally knew the man to whom she was mar­ried, Ali­son starts to look back at their shared past in the 1940s. It’s hard to tell how much is his­tor­i­cally ac­cu­rate, but that’s not re­ally the point of this at­mo­spheric and mov­ing ac­count of how the past can haunt the present.

Ruth Wil­son plays her own grand­mother in a com­plex fam­ily drama

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