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Life After Life (Season 1) - BBC

Initially, this may not be the Groundhog Day series you're expecting, but it is a bit closer than you might have wanted. When I hear re-incarnation committed to film, I'm thinking recollection as well. Maybe not immediately, but nestling in a grey matter crevice in the back of your mind.


Think of 'The Fountain' starring Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz, two people destined to be together forever, through multiple life times, regardless of circumstance, location or position. The universe had deemed them 'made for each other' and they searched, yearning for they knew not what, that fate demanded, until they found one another, in every single lifetime. They didn't know why, but they knew it must be this way.


This adaptation from Kate Atkinson's bestseller attempts to give us a mystery that asks us not to poke it with the stick of common-sense or treat it like science fiction or even religion, though Buddhism raises its head just the once. Even Nietzsche get a shout. Thomasin McKenzie plays Ursula, a girl who dies in childbirth, only for her birth to happen again on the same night with the same mother.


The universe would appear to have a plan for her, whether she realises it or not, and wants her around. So follows the story of Ursula's life, her regular deaths (I think counted at least a dozen) and her complete ignorance of what is happening to her, until after the first three or four unfortunate life ending incidents, something in her gut tells her that she's been here before. By this time, we've reached the roaring twenties, Ursula is nearly a teenager. Such a notion would have been derided, and so it was, by almost everyone.


The plot, now predictable yet poignant (death scenes are great for an audience, imagine having to film a dozen different ones) carries on unabated, despite the unfortunate accidents befalling Ursula. She lives out many lives, some even to their natural conclusion, and the variety should be applauded. Still, this is just Ursula. It's not one day she works McDonald's in Reading and the next time she's President of Gambia or anything. Always Ursula, always the same, with that familiar nagging that something needs to change. Something needs to be different.


It's a great story that doesn't really lend itself to the screen as the BBC would like, I imagine. Not to say that it isn't wonderful, frightfully plummy and engaging, with some very strong performances and an authentic design to boot, but Atkinson's book maybe doesn't go far enough. If Ursula had remembered each lifetime, then at least it would have been entertaining to watch her make amends to it, to correct the previous mistakes. Come back Bill Murray, all is forgiven.



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