Review of The Lakes

The Lakes (1997–1999)
One of the best TV dramas of the 90s.
19 November 2000
Nobody can accuse Jimmy McGovern of settling for a quiet life. His dramas, right from "Needle", through to "Cracker" and "Priest", to this masterpiece confirm him as one of the most exciting writers in any medium to emerge in the last decade.

And a masterpiece is what "The Lakes" is, even considering its flaws. Occasionally, McGovern seems more concerned with hitting home his messages (about Catholicism, country-versus-city, sexual politics, etc) at the expense of his characters, but he still creates dramatic situations which are credible, raw, and overwhelmingly moving without succumbing to sickly sentiment.

Focussing on the story of Danny, a Liverpudlian drifter and compulsive gambler, who marries Emma, the daughter in a devoutly Catholic family living in a small Lake District town, and who is implicated in the drowning accident which claims the lives of four local children, McGovern wrings every piece of emotion from his storyline, and supplies a script which his excellent cast are obviously having a field day with.

John Simms is remarkable as Danny, perfectly realising the inner conflict facing his outsider character who craves to do the right thing while aspiring to escape the emotional prison he finds himself in. Robert Pugh and Mary Jo Randle as the parish priest and would-be middle-aged lover handle their roles with compassion and truth, and Paul Copley as Randle's unknowing and decent husband also deserves some kudos.

In fact, the entire cast is outstanding, all perfectly getting under the skins of their characters, and the action is all brilliantly orchestrated by director David Blair, who brings all the initially disparate plotlines into one immensely satisfying whole.

In an age of endless costume drama, "The Lakes" comes like a blast of welcome fresh air, and very few other dramas produced in the 1990s (with the exception, maybe, of Alan Bleasdale's "GBH") come anywhere near matching its heartfelt intensity.
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