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The Thirteenth Tale

  • Drama

Summary

Biographer Margaret Lea (Olivia Colman) is summoned to the home of reclusive and terminally ill novelist Vida Winter (Vanessa Redgrave) to document the author's life. Vida reveals the secrets of her dark and unsettling childhood at ancestral home Angelfield, forcing Margaret to face up to the tragedy she herself suffered as a young girl. Psychological mystery adapted by Oscar-winning screenwriter Christopher Hampton from the novel by Diane Setterfield, with Robert Pugh, Tom Goodman-Hill, Steven Mackintosh and Alexandra Roach.

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Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Anyone who’s read Diane Setterfield’s subtle, unsettling gothic story of loss, grief, destructive jealousy and the peculiar dynamic of twins probably thinks it’s unfilmable. But writer Christopher Hampton’s clever, eerie screenplay and two mesmerising performances, from Vanessa Redgrave and Olivia Colman, make this a tour de force.

The Thirteenth Tale won’t be to everyone’s taste – there’s a slow build-up and it’s a tense, unhappy story – but it is sinuous and will wrap you in a prickly embrace as ghostly laughter rings through a huge, unhappy home. Colman is Margaret, a writer summoned by the imperious, dying author Vida Winter (Redgrave) to pen her biography. But there’s a terrible urgency about Vida’s need to tell her story, and she unearths childhood ghosts and horrors in front of an increasingly appalled Margaret. It’s the kind of television drama that will hang around you like a cloak, long after it ends.

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Credits

Cast

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Vida WinterVanessa Redgrave
Margaret LeaOlivia Colman
Hester BarrowAlexandra Roach
John the DigRobert Pugh
Dr CliftonSteven Mackintosh
Dr MawsleyTom Goodman-Hill
Young Adeline/VidaSophie Turner
Young EmmelineAntonia Clarke
Charlie AngelfieldMichael Jibson
Isabelle MarchEmily Beecham
The MissusJanet Amsden
Ambrose ProctorAdam Long
Emmeline/Adeline age 9Madeleine Power
Theodora MawsleyLizzie Hopley
JudithJacqueline Davis
Mr Peter LomaxMartin Wimbush
Aurelius LoveGordon Winter
Young MargaretIsabel Barlow
MoiraAlice Barlow

Crew

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DirectorJames Kent
ProducerDavid Heyman
ProducerNorma Heyman
WriterChristopher Hampton

Details

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