As you may or may not know, I am a MASSIVE Sarah Lancashire fan; I found her through Happy Valley, and through that, a set of amazing SL fans (Dixie and PLL) that turned me onto Last Tango In Halifax. It’s written by Sally Wainwright, the writer and sometime director for Happy Valley, so I’m pretty sure I can’t go wrong. Let’s start back at the beginning!
We open in a fancy tea room, Celia (Anne Reid) and her daughter Caroline (Sarah Lancashire) are discussing the death of Celia’s drooly husband Kenneth, presumably Caroline’s father. He didn’t make any provision for Celia in his will, thinking she’d go first, which prompts a “it’s not like you’re without” which isn’t the POINT!
Side note: It’s very odd to see Sarah Lancashire looking so glamorous as she’s so very dressed down as a police sergeant in Happy Valley. I couldn’t stop staring at her lips: they’re pink! And her hair looks nice! This is not Catherine. And this is exactly what I have to remember: NOT CATHERINE. Right, where were we?
Celia’s got a pen pal! He’s Alan, from her past, she knew him just slightly as a teenager and he found her on The Facebook.
We’re at a farm with Alan (Derek Jacobi, who I know from Gladiator, but mostly Miss Marple AND Gosford Park! I LOVED Gosford Park!), his grandson Raff (Josh Bolt) and daughter Gillian (Nicola Walker) telling the same story.
Celia doesn’t exactly remember WHO this Alan is…but she thinks he’s someone rich, but he talks like he comes from the next street, which Alan says he did exactly. He describes her as glamorous and well-spoken in turn, but they haven’t seen each other since 1953.
I’m learning all kind of new words! “Gormless”, “now’t” “sommat”!! It’s like a whole other language!
Uncle Robbie (Dean Andrews – I swear I know him from somewhere but I can’t find it) is there to pick up Raff; lots of contentious words between he and Gillian. I’m guessing this is either a BIL or an “uncle”. He’s taking Raff dirt-biking and I have a feeling there is no way in hell they’ll be back by 5 as Gillian insists.
They have been talking by email, but Celia’s not exactly sure what Alan looks like…people changing so much and email being what it is. They pull up to Caroline’s MANSION, where Celia has a flat, and oh! John’s car is there. Caroline’s son William (Edward Ashley) in the back seat looks alarmed.
Seriously, this house is MASSIVE! It looks like a giant stone castle.
Inside, John (Tony Gardner) is with Caroline’s other son Lawrence (Louis Greatorex), who bursts out “Dad’s here!” while William stomps away. Er-ooh, he still has a key and she didn’t know that and maybe he shouldn’t have and it’s all very awkward. Why is he here again? It seems that Judith, the woman he ran off with, is an alcoholic and it’s all very messy and he wants to come home. To here. “I don’t know” she says, looking perplexed.
Alan takes his grandson’s advice, emailing Celia to meet up for a coffee in Skipton and I love that we get to watch him type while the words are read from his brain; that’s exactly what we look like when we’re doing that! All starey with our mouths hanging open. And before he can decide exactly what symbol of affection to leave at the end (X? or xx? or ta? which is too familiar?), the phone rings. It’s Uncle Robbie; Raff’s fallen off his bike and they’re headed to the hospital. “He’s conscious now, anyway” is NOT reassuring! Quick click of the Reply button and he and Gillian are off to the hospital.
Gillian immediately lays into Uncle Robbie, saying this is what he wanted all along. Robbie and I are confused: he wanted Raff injured in a hospital bed? She says no! He wanted her worrying to death and um. I am a smotherer like no other, but your kid getting hurt is not part of anyone’s complicated plan to freak you out, Gillian. Robbie takes Raff biking to honour the memory of his father, Eddie, a rabid biker and there’s an intense moment where Robbie threatens to take Raff away from her, and Gillian and I are quite taken aback. Whut? Just then Raff wakes up and they all rush at him.
Celia is reading Alan’s missive when Caroline comes in to tell her the news that John is checking back in, which Celia thinks happened awfully easy for him, “after all that he’s done.” Caroline seems in a daze, really, disconnected, and it barely registers when Celia says she’s been invited to meet her Alan the following Monday.
Alan, Gillian and Raff are back from the hospital. Alan takes Raff aside to tell him that he’ll buy him a car if he ditches the dirt biking; he knows how much Gillian is worried that she’ll lose Raff too.
John and Lawrence are moving his things back in, William’s still pissed and NO, John can’t move back into the master bedroom, thankyouverymuch. She has an intercollegiate whatsit and that means NO.
It’s dark at Gillian’s farm, she and Raff wrestle pigs (?) as Alan opens his Facebook to find Celia’s message. Celia is just as excited to see his reply and yay!
Gillian and Alan are having a cuppa and talking; she knows about the car offer, but she doesn’t want to discourage Raff from doing things he likes. Oh and “dozy pillock” Robbie was Eddie’s brother, so she won’t restrict him from seeing Raff. She’s all wrapped up in her parenting plan of letting him outgrow things naturally, so he doesn’t resent people (her), but Alan is beaming from ear to ear: “she’s” meeting him! Like Caroline, she distractedly attempts a little enthusiasm, faking it somewhat better. He tells her the story of how he asked Celia out as teenagers, waiting for hours but she never showed. He found out later that she’d moved, but he never forgot her. Gillian is a bit miffed for her dead mother, his wife of 50 years, but he says, oh no, he loved her mother! They were great pals! But Celia: if Heaven were to walk on earth. I know we’re supposed to want to start and keep on as friends and all that, but 50 years of marriage = great pals. I mean. No thank you.
Getting ready for Monday montage! We see Gillian fluffing up for her job at a grocery store and Caroline suiting up for her position as Headteacher at Sulgrave Heath Independent School. All kinds of contrast between Gillian being dropped off in her scrubby farm jeep and Caroline’s sleek SUV, never mind the impressive school grounds. Caroline has letters after her name: DPhil, MEd, Gillian has a plastic nametag. You get it!
Alan locks up his car in a super cool looking parking lot (each space is separated by a brick wall, whut??) but doesn’t pay for parking, not having any change. Celia pays for her parking at the train station while Alan nervously pours tea and looks about to see a young lad sitting on a wall waiting presumably for a lady, as he did so many years before. He’s worried, but just then, in a beam of sunlight moves Celia into his view.
She says she knows who he is now, she worked it out the moment she saw him. She wasn’t sure if it was he or Alan SpindlyLegs Robertshaw and he’s devastated. He rallies; he’s got to go put money in the carpark, but can he get her something first?
She says, with a lovely smile: “you asked me out once, you probably don’t remember” and while he scrambles to dissemble about whether he does or not, she goes on to say she sent a note with her new address to tell him she couldn’t meet him, she was moving to Sheffield. She gave it to Eileen Pickford, who never passed it on, the slapper! It’s a good thing he’d forgotten, or else he would have spent the last 60 years thinking he’d been stood up! Now go get your ticket.
Caroline is marching down the hallway, she calls an attractive woman named Kate (Nina Sosanya) into her office – 5 minutes please. Kate comments on the formality of Caroline’s tone, who launches into the story of John coming home. She thinks it’s a good idea, for the children (and they’re not exactly children, are they? Lawrence is the younger of the two and is maybe 12, so that argument is specious at best. It’s not as though she’s got a 4, 6 and 7 year old at home) and oh!… These two are a couple and that explains the several dozen tumblrs dedicated to Sarah Lancashire kissing who must be this woman.
Kate asks again, why, after all John has done (and that makes me wonder again WHAT he’s done) and Caroline replies that she has to put the children first, especially since he doesn’t and she’s seen what happens with children who’s parents do not. She’s…fond of Kate, but that “other thing”, that’s not really her.
I am not a closeted lesbian, or a lesbian at all, although I don’t like to lock anything down as absolutes with labels, but I can see exactly how this rings true. It could be that she’s welcoming John coming back as a way to NOT seek happiness, to not be in a relationship with this woman that she clearly wants to. From what I DO know of closeted and out relationships (and RuPaul), self-loathing is one of the hardest parts to overcome. I mean, you can always shout someone else down, how do you turn that off inside your own head? All those sometimes harmful societal rules that live in our melons. I may have gotten a little teary but we probably shouldn’t talk about it. Segue ovah!
Alan buys his ticket, but his car is gone! His breathing becomes laboured and he warns himself to keep calm.
A very handsome but smarmy looking bloke is staring pointedly at Gillian’s arse as she’s bent over at work, asking for cigarettes. She IDs him, but she checked his age the other night, doesn’t she remember? She plays it off, asking for it again while he stares at her arse again and asks if she’s going to the car again this Friday again? Bad choice, Gillian! Hawt, but not discreet whatsoever. He’s really cute until he smiles and I can’t abide by that type; what with the lip-licking and rubbing on stuff: no beuno. Beer Goggles are REAL.
An agitated Alan comes back into the cafe and Celia jumps right in; she’s realised that he must have thought she stood him up for lo those 60 years and she wants to set it to rights. For her part, she spent 60 years thinking he didn’t want to bother writing and that’s the last time she’ll ask Eileen Pickford to do anything for her. “Well she’s dead now”, he says. “Well that’ll teach her”, she says. “I was married to her”…. eerr-ooooh. Good lord. She seemed nice?
A pause allows Alan to finally break in with “I think my car’s been stolen” and off they go to the police station. They sit and chat while an APB or a BoLo whatever they’re called when you want to find a car; Celia says her husband wasn’t the best. He cheated a lot, a whole string or stream of “what’s the collective noun for women that aren’t that fussy?” and now I want to know! She doesn’t think, as Caroline does, that it takes two people to make a marriage go wrong, but I think maybe in some cases it does. In a bad marriage, two people can create this amazingly toxic environment based on a continuous loop of the same decisions over and over and over and it can be impossible to sort out where the one person’s bad behaviour ends and the other begins. Caroline just wants her to get over it, though, he’s dead, move on, etc.
Celia asks about Eileen. Alan says they had a great marriage, were very happy, but that she developed Alzheimer’s and that was that. Celia thinks Eileen didn’t give Alan the letter on purpose because she fancied him and I would also bet that. The policeman comes out and asks him how he’s getting home?
Alan’s telling Celia about his family. Gillian, who was devastated when Eddie died. Never enough money, so she works at the supermarket and he moved in with them because he didn’t like living alone in his own house that he rents out now. Celia’s been feeling alone for 40 years, and there’s this lovely moment when he talks about how he remembered her: smiling and radiant. She’s very touched.
They’re driving along and Alan sees his car! That’s it, Celia is on the chase! Alan lets her know about his heart condition but that doesn’t slow our Celia down! He’s on the phone with the police, giving exceedingly poor navigation landmarks, just like on Cuffs when the young fella couldn’t find the never mind, never mind, different British cop show. She’s got him in her sights, though and she’s not giving up! Right until she drives into the rear of his car and the thief runs off. They’ve got to go back to the police station again.
They’re sitting and talking again, about his heart condition and WHAT would have happened had Eileen not so cruelly crushed their budding romance. And now it comes out: Celia was in love with Alan and she was also gutted when he didn’t write to her. He stares at her, and just then the policeman comes out, asking who wants to give their statements first; Mrs. Buttershaw, perhaps? Alan find his voice and says “we’re not married” and they stare at each other for a long while, with all those not exactly wasted years between them and all the regret you can fit in the space between two people separated so cruelly by fate. NO I DON’T THINK I COULD WORK ANOTHER WORD INTO THAT SENTENCE THANKS MUCH FOR ASKING!
Uncle Robbie is meeting Raff, who’s sent a text saying he’s jacking it in with dirt biking, which I assume does NOT mean what the North American version of that does, but rather that he’s trying to quit. Robbie presses, saying that he’s got to get back on that (metal) horse, that’s what his dad would have done and Raff just doesn’t want to upset his mom anymore. Ohhhh no, Robbie says he thinks Gillian killed Eddie and that illuminates their argument at the hospital earlier. I would suggest Robbie say a fond farewell to Raff at this point, you can’t come between someone and his mother like that.
Raff doesn’t know WHAT to think.
He braces his mom, who is collecting keys and etc to go get Alan. Sure, she’ll talk, and yeah, she knows what Robbie has said, he tried to have her arrested when Eddie died (by misadventure, which I will assume is Accidental here).
Alan and Celia are having tea by the fire, waiting for their respective children to come get them. He wants to know if she was REALLY in love with him? He says he never stopped thinking about her and she says they really missed a trick, didn’t they? I would love to play Bridge, thanks for asking! They can’t call those years wasted, exactly, as above, because they have families and just. Such a shame.
Robbie is a copper! And says most of what he sees is domestic violence situations just like this and all I want to know is; if he thought Eddie was abusing Gillian and this was her big fight back, why didn’t he do something about it then? Hmm? Instead of waiting until Eddie was dead and then accusing Gillian of wanting him dead. I may have the wrong end of the stick there, but I’m indignant nonetheless. She thinks she’s explained it properly, but we’ll see.
Caroline is back in her office, finding a note from Kate. “I’ve been indiscreet. Please don’t hate me” and Caroline looks as though she wants to throw up. She arrives home to find her family watching TV and reading, with the exception of John, who is drunk and hasn’t managed to make supper just yet. He’s got to go get Celia, who was unable to reach Caroline earlier. She heads his drunk arse off at the pass and hops back into her fancy SUV.
Alan and Celia are speculating on the past again, reliving what could have been but Alan is a bit put out by Celia’s historical bedazzlement at Kenneth’s prospects: he had prospects too, you know!
Caroline is shouting at Kate; who told insidious prick Michael Dobson about their affair, she puts her blinker on and starts to reverse into a spot, to be cut off by Gillian and Raff, who’ve stolen her spot. OY! She says, but they’re gone, into the pub to get Alan. Caroline parks on the side of the road and stomps inside to rage at Gillian about her selfish, mindless driving and then further; they’ll have to go straight away; some “braindead lowlife trailer trash” just stole her parking spot. “Oh! I see you’ve met my daughter,” says Alan and HAHAHAHAHAHA.
Oh and they have news: they’re getting married! Dumbfounded looks all around. And we’re owt!
So. That was a very charming show, just enough humour and down to earthness (word? Yes, no?) to make it lovely without being too sentimental. I love Celia and I really liked when Caroline finally came alive at the end, she was very much like a muted marionette in the first bit. I was even able to not see Catherine Cawood from Happy Valley after the first bit,yay! Thanks to PLL and Dixie for recommending the show, I can’t wait to see what happens next! Cheers