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Review of David Tennant's "Recovery"


There are minor spoilers in this review.  I don't think the spoilers matter that much here, but If you want to experience "Recovery" fresh, then here's
A Review without Spoilers
If you are a Tennant fan, you must see this show.

A Review with Minor Spoilers

“Recovery” is an amazing piece of television.  Gripping, intense, brutally honest, entirely unsentimental, it is a harrowing but brave view of one man’s recovery from a brain injury.  It makes the more well-known “Regarding Henry” with Harrison Ford look like a Disney fairy tale.  Yet, as grim as it sounds, I found this uplifting too, in a very real-world way, if only to show how people, when they really have no other choice, do persevere.  And to give the vast majority of us a perspective shift about our lives.

Although it’s not a romp in the park, there are moments of lightness and humor as well, which come briefly and believably from characters as true and lifelike as I have ever seen.  Everything about this program is of the highest quality.  The writing is superb, with flawed, believable characters that defy stereotypes.  The acting is excellent, but I’m wishing I had a word that means more.  David Tennant will blow your socks off as Alan, and Sarah Parish as his wife Tricia, and the young actors who play his sons, are superb as well.  Tennant nails this so beautifully, with not a hint of excess.  He is restrained, confused, muted, but pulls no punches with the flare-ups that his character goes through.

I feel I should mention that my grandmother had Alzheimers, my mother was an alcoholic and (years later) my father fell down the stairs, suffering a sub-arachnoid hematoma that resulted in stroke-like symptoms (from which he eventually recovered).  So I have had some experience with similar situations.  I have never seen as honest a treatment of brain injury as this.

Alan is a construction site manager who is hit by a bus in the opening minutes.  At first, he is in a coma, but he awakes, although he has suffered brain damage.  He has memory loss, and has difficulty doing the simplest tasks.  The normal social filters that most of us have in place that keep us from saying everything that goes through our minds is gone for Alan.  He makes inappropriate, lewd comments, embarrassing his family; he swears, and gets enraged in a heartbeat.  Worse, aside from the bouts of raage, he seems without affect, that is, he doesn’t  seem to be having emotional responses to his wife or family.

This is no perfect, TV-land family.  His wife is at first supportive and tries her best, but she reaches a point where she cannot cope with this stranger who lives in place of her husband. His older son, about to enter university, reacts with all the conflicting emotions that a teenager in this situation would have: embarrassment, anger, disbelief, selfishness, and helpfulness, care, love and anguish.

Alan’s accident and recovery does not pave the way for a miraculous, transcendent epiphany on anyone’s part.  The story reaches a depth, then slowly, things get a bit better.  Alan and Tricia realize that they need to try harder, and perhaps settle for less than they would wish.  Much of the story concerns their relationship.  How much of Alan’s personality is gone?  Aside from gaining competence with living, will he regain what made Tricia fall in love with him?  Because of the honesty with which the story is told, I found the ending extremely satisfying.  It was not a cheat, it was not cheap, it was not mawkish or sentimental or neat.  But it was inspiring to me, as I said at the start.  What’s more, the very next thing I did after watching this was to kiss my husband and feel very, very grateful for everything that I have.

Who should watch a show about such a bummer of a subject?  I think almost everyone, because it truly makes one realize how lucky we are, or see that someone had the courage to tell this story so well.  And I'd recommend it because it is one of the most excellent pieces of television that I’ve ever seen, and, to me at least, excellence is reason enough.  And every Tennant fan should see this.

OK, now for fangirling.  Truly, David is so totally amazing in this that you totally believe he is this character Alan with brain damage, and for the most part, I was so focused on the story and his character that I wasn’t really Tennant-gushing as much as usual.  (This is written after just one viewing.)  If anyone, anywhere, implies that Tennant over-acts or is not a “serious” actor, this program will change his or her mind.  He is awesome.

And, he is naked.  Full dorsal.  Several scenes.  I hate to cheapen this review with jumping up and down to see DT’s nakedness, but.  Yeah.  It’s definitely there.  And he’s adorable, especially the first time, as he celebrates his ability to take a shower by himself by strolling naked out into the hospital hallway and crowing about it, then delightedly waving to his family.  In the immortal words of metacrisis Ten.2, “Oh, yessss.”


By the way, I’d love so much to get this on DVD.  I’d like to show it to my dad, who’s not so great at “the YouTube.”  I know it hasn’t been released, but surely someone, somewhere recorded it??

"Recovery" can be found on Youtube, in nine parts.  Here's part 1:



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 1st, 2013 10:00 pm (UTC)
I agree with everything you say here. The only additional reaction I had was to be quite angry with the lack of help offered to the family. The people who care the most for Alan, and are most affected by the changes in his abilities and personality are not the best people to be teaching him how to make toast without burning the house down.
Jan. 1st, 2013 10:26 pm (UTC)
Yes, very true. I imagine that there are many scenes of therapy that are left out, implied by the techniques that the family (I presume) learned from them, like the "three C's" and the labeling of cabinets and sequencing prompts. But it would have been helpful to the realism to show them. Didn't they visit an adult day care facility where Alan makes the disparaging remarks about collages? But, yes, that's a very good point.
Jan. 1st, 2013 11:12 pm (UTC)
Wonderful review! A hard thing to watch, but worth it.

You might enjoy this post of mine: http://sue-denimme.livejournal.com/290876.html. It's a full listing of DT's credits, as thorough as I could possibly make it. I compiled it for his birthday last year (wow, gotta get used to 2012 being "last year"!)
Jan. 7th, 2013 05:15 pm (UTC)
Thank you! This is a great resource. It seems like it took a lot of work to compile. Thank you for doing it!
Jan. 7th, 2013 05:58 pm (UTC)
It *was* a lot of work, but it didn't really feel like it! When I'm a huge fan of something or someone, that's what I do: I make lists and compile data on them. I dunno why exactly, it's not to compile Queen of the Geeks points. I just like doing it.

I might put it up on the web proper, along with my ginormous collection of Who quotes (old and new) and other stuff, if I can find a free host that I like.
Jan. 2nd, 2013 12:07 am (UTC)
You make me want to watch it. I will have to watch it on youtube when I have a chance. Thanks for your review!
Jan. 2nd, 2013 09:24 am (UTC)
Oooh "Recovery" is masterful. I've watched it twice now. It's amazing. Funnily enough the lack of help received from other-than-family didn't even blip on my radar because in the US, in my experience, that kind of assistance isn't available if you are working class.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )