Post image for DVD Review: MRS. WILSON (PBS)

by Dale Reynolds on May 9, 2019



Actress Ruth Wilson is well known in her native UK, and is slowly gaining acclaim here in the U.S. (check out her work as the psychotic enemy of Idris Elba in the hard-hitting detective-drama, Luther). So when she approached BBC to produce a project close to her heart, they evidently agreed forthwith.

Based on true events, Mrs. Wilson begins in 1963, when a loving wife’s husband — twenty years her senior and father to her two boys — dies at home. Grieving, Alison Wilson (Ruth Wilson) is not ready for the discoveries thrust upon her in the next year. She and her deceased husband, the fatally charming and sexy Alexander (Iain Glen), had met during WWII, when both were working for British Intelligence — she as a translator, he as a spy. But he lived with serious emotional problems that he kept close to his vest, so his newly-widowed wife is not prepared for the extent of his treachery.

His superiors understood his faults that undercut his superb spying abilities, and Alexander invented realistic rationales for his often illegal activities, which Alison and his sons accepted at face value. It was in his novels that he managed a legacy of sorts. But the damage to his family (actually families, as we discover right at the top) is note-worthy.

The three-parter is particularly well-written (Tim Crook and Anna Symon, based on the memoir of Alison Wilson), and smoothly directed (Richard Laxton), making the time-jumping between wartime and post-war very much alive.

Alexander may have been a scoundrel, but in Mr. Glen’s capable hands, you can’t hate the man. And the discoveries that many of his writings were based on his wartime exploits (whether authentic or not) and the devastating emotional insults he inflicts on his families keep the storytelling afloat.

Well cast in its leads (Wilson and Glen have a strong loving bond), the series is heightened by the work of the great Fiona Shaw as the lesbian keeper of MI-5’s secrets, and the work of Keeley Hawes who lives out the tragedy of his first wife, Dorothy, a bitter recluse who, as was true of all his family and friends, loved him far too dear.

But the best part of the mini-series is that Alison Wilson was actually Ruth Wilson’s paternal grandmother, making this a highly personal and — due to the talents involved — highly entertaining piece of work. Watch it; you’ll agree.

Mrs. Wilson
1 disc, 3 episodes | 168 minutes | rated NC-17
released April 9, 2019
available on Blu-ray, DVD, and streaming at PBS and Amazon

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