Remember Me review: Michael Palin & Jodie Comer shine in new BBC 1 drama (Spoilers)

by Matt D
Michael Palin

Michael Palin

It’s fair to say that the genre of supernatural horror isn’t well represented on British TV. The majority of our dramas centre round doctors, policemen and occasionally lawyers. More supernatural offerings are usually confined to single dramas, such as last year’s The Thirteenth Tale and The Tractate Middoth. There are exceptions to the rule; such as ITV’s Marchlands and BBC One’s The Secret of Crickley Hall, but these series are few and far between. The latest British drama to try and tackle the supernatural genre is tonight’s BBC One three-parter Remember Me which includes all the classic horror tropes including unexplained running water, flickering lights and a creepy piano.

Remember Me’s most interesting aspect is the fact that Michael Palin is starring in the lead role as curmudgeonly pensioner Tom Parfitt. Although the character occasionally lapses into cheeky humour, for the most part Remember Me sees Palin play against type as a man who is afraid to live in his home. But rather than be afraid of the perils of modern life, Tom is seemingly afraid of the terrors his house holds. The first time we meet Tom he is at the bottom of the stairs and appears to have lied about falling down them in order to be put into a care home, this is suggested by the fact that his case is already packed when social worker Alison Denning comes calling. Oddly, the case is later revealed to be empty, possibly because everything in Tom’s house has somewhat of a supernatural quality to it. Indeed, Alison’s decision to take a photograph from Tom’s home has disastrous consequences as she is seemingly pushed from a window in the pensioner’s room after coming to visit him.

Jodie Comer

This incident gradually introduces the other two major players of the drama, both of whom have demons of their own. In the case of young care worker Hannah, it’s her father’s death that hangs large over her household and is still affecting her mother enormously. In the wake of her father’s passing, Hannah appears to have taken on looking after her little brother as its clear that their mum is struggling to cope. Despite all of this, Hannah still has a cheery attitude and is evidently a favourite of the majority of the residents. When Tom arrives, Hannah tries to befriend him and the two really hit it off; however this changes when she’s the first person on the scene after Alison’s fall. As a result she becomes the lead witness in the case and is pumped for information by the determined investigating officer Rob Fairholme.

At the beginning of the episode, it’s unclear just how Rob will fit into the drama as we see him conversing with his daughter in Australia. Just like Hannah, Rob’s family situation is strained and it seems that he now has to communicate with his children over Skype. An early scene in the episode sees Rob try out for a sergeant’s position, only to lose his nerve halfway through the interview. His actions put Rob at odds with his boss, who recommended him for the interview, and as a result he is forced to investigate Alison’s death on his own. Meanwhile, Hannah attempts to learn more about Tom as she goes to his house to put the photograph back only to start playing the haunting piano. It appears that everything in Tom’s house has some sort of haunting quality to it and when two neighbourhood boys break into the property they find themselves fighting against a ghostly presence.

As somebody who’s not the biggest fan of the horror genre, I was quite sceptical about how well Remember Me would work. However, after watching this first episode, I think that writer Gwyneth Hughes has got the tone of the piece just right especially as she tries to make her characters as rounded as possible. What I liked about Remember Me was the fact that it was just as much about Tom, Hannah and Rob as it was the supernatural side of things. One of Remember Me’s main themes is that of loneliness with Tom haunted by the ghosts of his past, Rob having to cope without his family and Hannah feeling lonely thanks to the loss of her father. I did find that Hughes wrote the mundane moments of Remember Me as well as the more supernatural set pieces and this made the scarier scenes feel more effective.

Mark Addy

In terms of the atmospheric set pieces, praise must go to Remember Me’s technical team who do a great job at amping up the tension when they need to. From the opening scene, in which Tom reminisces about a memorable seaside trip, the haunting score plays its part in setting an ominous mood for the drama. I particularly enjoyed how well various sounds; including that of the care home’s alert buzzer and the flickering of the lights, were edited together in order to create an incredibly sinister mood. Music plays its part throughout Remember Me, especially the way in which Hughes makes the song ‘Scarborough Fair’ seem utterly creepy. The fact that this is the song that the drama takes its name from suggests to me that it’s vital to the overall plot. I thought that director Ashley Pearce did a brilliant job at making all of Remember Me’s set pieces feel as plausible as possible and I was on the edge of my seat during the scene where the young lads were rifling through Tom’s house.

But I feel that the biggest positive of Remember Me is the performances given from the drama’s three major players. As I mentioned earlier, Michael Palin is a revelation as he plays against type as the elderly Tom who constantly claims to be ‘eighty-odd’. Palin does well at keeping us guessing about his character’s true motives but is excellent at conveying the fear her feels about certain items from his house. Mark Addy once again plays a loveable loser as lonely copper Rob and I feel that he certainly adds some realism to the piece. However, I personally believe that the best performer among the cast is young Jodie Comer, who is utterly compelling as Hannah. Anybody who saw Comer in My Mad Fat Diary knows how great an actress she is and I think that Remember Me showcases what a tremendous performer she is. Comer’s turn as Remember Me gives the show the heart is desperately needs and I think the actress really makes us sympathise with her character.

Whilst not everything in Remember Me works I felt that, for the most part, this was a solid supernatural drama that had a couple of moments that made me jump. Although I’m not always a fan of this sort of drama, I felt that the horror elements were well balanced against Gwyneth Hughes’ well-rounded characters and the brilliant performances given by Palin and Comer. Ultimately, the strength of Remember Me will be in its final reveal but this first episode was incredibly promising and I for one can’t wait to see what happens next.

What did you think to Remember Me? Are you going to be sticking with it?

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3 Comments

  1. Robin Nicholson on November 28, 2014 at 9:50 pm

    This was very good indeed with strong memories of The Women in Black filmed on the east coast in about 1985 (perhaps later) as well as elements of the classic M R James ‘Oh Whistle and I will come to you’. I am not surprised it has had very impressive reviews.

  2. Debs on November 30, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    Absolutely love this!…scary.
    Jumpy..All the things I love about a classics supernatural drama!…keep them coming BBC1.

  3. Robin Everett on December 2, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    I felt this was the best of its type for many years and the
    second episode was just as good I thought although it was
    panned by the telegraph critic
    cant wait to see the final episode next week

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