Anyone tuning in for a slice of gloomy Nordic noir on Sunday may have been confused to find the latest Wallander unfolding under sunny African skies, in the heat and dust of Cape Town.

Our crumpled hero’s mood was also a bit less wintry than when we last saw him four years ago – though he still wasn’t in any danger of breaking into a chorus of Hakuna Matata. (‘How is it?’ asked his daughter. ‘Sunny,’ he replied. I bet his postcards are rubbish.)

White Lioness, loosely adapted from the late Henning Mankell’s novel, started with a Swedish ex-pat walking through an open door on remote farmland and shouting ‘Hello?’ Scenes that start with people walking through open doors and shouting ‘Hello?’ never end well – and this particular victim turned out to have blundered right into the middle of a political assassination plot.

The Cape Town police roped in Wallander for a bit of good PR, before realising it didn’t look great that they could barely find their car keys without the help of a famous European detective. (Drawing attention to this post-colonial awkwardness was presumably an attempt to provide some cover for the fact the local cops really were hopeless without him.)

But Wallander couldn’t resist picking at the scab, and followed the trail into the townships, where everyone waved and pointed at him – either because he was a white man, or because he’s Kenneth Branagh.

After the dreadful year we’ve been having, it strikes me that Sir Ken is the sort of actor we ought not to take for granted. He was terrific here, obviously – radiating a still, unshowy integrity – as was Bonnie Mbuli as his sergeant of the week, Grace Mthembu.

Amidst all the procedural stuff (most of it vaguely plausible, as these things go), the film also had some weighty things to say about corruption, collective versus individual responsibility, and the miserable price of a life in some parts of the world. ‘He’s just a kid,’ noted Wallander of a young gang member. ‘They’re all just kids,’ said Mthembu. ‘They don’t live long enough to grow up.’

He looked a bit pained at that. But then he often does.

TV extra:


Love, Nina

Based on the letters Nina Stibbe sent to her family in Leicester while working as a childminder in 80s London, Nick Hornby’s culture-clash sitcom is a quirky delight. Game of Thrones’ Faye Marsay plays the barefoot nanny navigating her way through the middle-class intelligentsia of NW1, while Helena Bonham Carter steals the show as frazzled boho single mum George. To be honest, though, Hornby had me at his opening gag about Shakin’ Stevens being spotted borrowing a copy of The Thorn Birds from Melton Mowbray Public Library.


Going Forward

Jo Brand’s nursing sitcom Getting On has been re-tooled for Britain 2016, hence the new, corporate-speak title and Kim Wilde’s new job with a private healthcare provider. It’s an unflinching study of the grey reality of life – all bedsores, baby sick and rising damp – but there are belly laughs, too, including a lovely argument between Omid Djalili and Tom Davis (both fabulous) about whether there’s a Harry Ramsden’s in Baghdad. Brand, meanwhile, is note perfect in her BAFTA-winning role as a woman trying to solve everyone’s problems but her own.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, May 26, 2016

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