After leaving a soap opera it is quite hard for an actor to escape the character they’re best known for playing. For example former Eastender Lacey Turner has found it hard to stop being known as Stacey Slater. Since leaving Eastenders, Turner has starred in a number of programmes however none of them have been particularly successfully. These shows include Sky Living’s Bedlam and ITV2’s Switch neither of which got much of an audience or were critically praised. Thankfully Turner turns all that around tonight by appearing in powerful one-off drama Our Girl in which she gives an absolutely brilliant performance.
Turner stars as Molly Dawes an uninspired teenager who lives in a cramped apartment with her ever-growing family. She is currently the eldest of five siblings while her constantly stressed mother is pregnant with yet another child. Molly’s father Dave meanwhile is a racist drunk who doesn’t really seem to like anybody especially his eldest daughter. Later it is revealed that Dave fell off a ladder while working as a satellite engineer and is now living on incapacity benefits. Molly spends her days working at a nail salon while her nights are mainly spent getting drunk and picking fights with other girls. Molly is also going out with Albanian Muslim Artan who often cheats on her and almost overpowers her when they are together. After seeing Artan having sex with her best friend, Molly resolves to turn her life around. The next day Molly finds herself across the road from the army recruitment office and sees the recruitment officer mopping up the vomit she left there the night before. Molly peers into the office window seemingly considering a career in the army. When she is confronted by the officer she starts to get into a row with him but accompanies him into the office nevertheless. The recruitment officer tells Molly that she’ll have to pass one simple test to qualify for basic training however she informs that she’s famous for being dumb. Despite this it appears as if Molly passed the test as she goes off to the recruitment weekend.
At the weekend the mouthy Molly winds up superiors by disobeying orders and laughing at inappropriate times. However she later impresses during the icebreaker task in which each recruit is asked to introduce themselves and talk about the lives. During this task Molly talks about living in her Lego house and both loving and hating the area in which she lives. Later Molly also impresses her superiors by dropping out of the cross country run to tend to her fallen friend Katie. Her interviewer tells Molly that there is mixed opinion about her but eventually recruits her for the army following an impassioned plea. Molly’s parents don’t take the news she’s joining the army very well mainly because she won’t be able to care for her siblings anymore. Artan also disapproves of his girlfriend becoming a soldier as he believes all the British army does is kill Muslims. On her first day of basic training Molly gets off to a bad start when she is branded the class clown by her superior, Corporal Geddings. Geddings is hard on Molly and doesn’t believe she has the discipline to make it in the army. Indeed Molly, who has always lived a disorganised life, must now learn to be a lot more neat and tidy. Molly and Geddings later bury the hatchet after she comes to the aid of a fellow recruit who almost chokes to death during the assault cause challenge. Molly isn’t able to give up her old ways just yet as we see her smuggle Sambuca into the barracks and also have sex with one of the male recruits. Molly is also tasked with writing a letter to her family which will be given to them on the event of her death. Despite constant reminders from Geddings, Molly struggles to write this letter as she finds it hard to express her true feelings.
While back home on leave, Molly discovers that her father and Artan have made some sort of deal. This deal basically involves Artan giving Molly’s father loads of money if he lets Artan marry his daughter. The only problem is that Molly is a lot stronger than she was before so says no to both of the men in her life. In revenge for turning Artan down, Molly’s father vows never to let any member of the family speak to her again. Back at the barracks, Molly becomes a lot more serious and is able to appreciate the sacrifices that soldiers have made in the past. Unfortunately none of Molly’s family attends her graduation, as her father’s ban is still in place. Instead Molly finds herself having a heart to heart with Geddings in the dormitory. Molly’s mother finally gets the chance to see her daughter during her final days of training. Here Molly’s mother voices her regrets about not being there for her eldest daughter but also explains why she has to stick by her husband. After this exchange Molly is finally able to write her letter home and heads off to Afghanistan.
There’s a lot to like about Our Girl namely Tony Grounds’ script which makes Molly a believable and sympathetic modern teenager. Grounds takes us on Molly’s journey as she goes from a mouthy bottle-blonde to a respectful young lady over the course of her training. I personally really sympathised with Molly throughout the piece as she was a character who’d always sought love but always looked for it in the wrong places. The lack of a strong male role model had seemingly drawn her to unsuitable men such as the possessive Artan. We are then able to see the transformation in Molly as she goes from a disorganised household to the regimented world of the army. She also learns to respect herself thanks to her relationship with Cpl. Geddings and her friendship with Katie. I especially enjoyed the fact that Molly and Geddings were never involved romantically but instead simply formed a mutual respect for one another. Unfortunately I didn’t find all of the characters as well-rounded as Molly and some of Molly’s family and friends came off a little clichéd. This is especially true of Molly’s father whose domineering ways and racist rants made him appear to be a very one-dimensional character.
As far as the acting goes this is definitely Lacey Turner’s was absolutely fantastic as Molly Dawes. The best thing about Turner is her wonderfully expressive face meaning that we know exactly how she is feeling at all times. She is able to add a certain believability to this girl who was trying to better herself despite some obstacles along the way. The scenes Turner really excelled in were those in which she had to go beyond simply portraying a mouthy teenager with a bad attitude. I personally really enjoyed the scene in which the nervous Molly had to get up in front of her fellow recruits and talk about her life. This was incredibly emotional segment and one in which you really saw the character of Molly turn a corner. Matthew McNulty was an inspired choice to play Geddings as you can believe that he’s been in the army for a long time. McNulty is able to ortray Geddings as both the harsh disciplinarian and later as Molly’s mentor.
Overall Our Girl isn’t a perfect drama but it is one that I found really compelling throughout. I think it’s a good choice for a Sunday night drama as it makes a change from the usual crime solving or period drama fare. Despite some clichéd scenes and characters, I thought Our Girl was a very well-written and contemporary piece of drama. Best of all was Turner’s performance as we saw the sympathetic Molly transform throughout the course of the drama. For me this was really Turner’s show and I think finally she’s shaken off the soap-opera stigma and from now on will be known as Lacey rather than Stacey.
What did you think of Our Girl? Did you enjoy Turner’s performance? Leave Your Comments Below.