Kate Winslet's onto a winner… starring opposite her daughter

CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Kate Winslet’s onto a winner… starring opposite her daughter

I Am Ruth 

Rating: ****

A Spy Among Friends

Rating: ***** 

The British used to deal with an overload of emotion using good old repression, by buttoning up and refusing to talk about things.

Kate Winslet, as an anxious mother in I Am Ruth (C4), does it the modern way. She blurts it all out, saying things she doesn’t mean, taking them back, over-apologising, saying sorry for apologising. Then she calms her nerves with a glug of white wine or spoons Marmite straight from the jar.

I’m not sure the old way wasn’t healthier. Just wear a rigid smile, and have a war with Germany when it all gets too much.

Ruth’s daughter Freya (played by Winslet’s real-life daughter, Mia Threapleton) has her own way of coping with a confusion of feelings. Posting suggestive selfies to social media, she obsesses over the responses as she slides into a breakdown.

Freya (Mia Threapleton, right) couldn’t maintain her sullen silence when she saw her mother puffing on a cigarette — or when Ruth (Kate Winslet, left) criticised her for wearing her skirt too short

Winslet, who was so outstanding in Mare Of Easttown, proved once again that she is magnificent as a traumatised parent in a TV role. She and her daughter were utterly convincing together, and I’d like to see them reunited in a longer series

I Am Ruth, co-written by Winslet with director Dominic Savage, was two hours of sustained intensity, as mother and daughter tried every way possible to reach each other.

The most effective tactic, at least at the start, was to irritate the life out of each other. Freya couldn’t maintain her sullen silence when she saw her mother puffing on a cigarette — or when Ruth criticised her for wearing her skirt too short.

CLAUSTROPHOBIA OF THE NIGHT 

‘Let’s get you buried alive,’ chortled Claudia Winkleman, wielding a shovel on her gothic gameshow The Traitors (BBC1), as she shut players into coffins and shovelled earth over them. What a personality change. Was she evil all along?

But slamming doors and screaming matches, the traditional teenage modes of communication, could not get to the heart of the problem. It was difficult for us to understand its roots, too, because so much was hidden.

Why Ruth was single, we didn’t know. She fancied the instructor at her spin aerobics class, but she wasn’t dating and she never mentioned Freya’s father.

Was this a recent divorce, or a bereavement? We were not told. Perhaps the point was a feminist one, that women can have problems without the need for a man to be involved. But that doesn’t explain why it was solely Ruth’s responsibility to solve Freya’s mental health crisis, with her ex (if he existed) playing no part.

In the event, Freya fixed herself, by drowning her phone and giving her mum a hug. It was a bit trite, but better than no ending at all.

Winslet, who was so outstanding in Mare Of Easttown, proved once again that she is magnificent as a traumatised parent in a TV role. She and her daughter were utterly convincing together, and I’d like to see them reunited in a longer series.

The best new show on telly yesterday was one most viewers will have missed, as ITV chose the worst day possible to launch its new streaming catch-up service, with a flagship drama, A Spy Among Friends (ITVX).

Anna Maxwell Martin plays a British spy in 1963, stunned by the defection of the urbanely duplicitous Kim Philby

The entire series is available, along with a bumper catalogue of shows, all of which will screen later on terrestial TV. The best British espionage drama since Alec Guinness in Tinker Tailor

Millions were watching streaming online video of course . . . but it was Netflix’s Harry And Meghan documentary that won the PR war. A Spy Among Friends will garner rave reviews when it airs on mainstream ITV next year. It’s simply superb.

Damian Lewis and Anna Maxwell Martin play British spies in 1963, both stunned by the defection of the urbanely duplicitous Kim Philby (Guy Pearce). Anyone who relishes the extended interrogations in Line Of Duty will be mesmerised by this six-part series, which amounts to one long cross-examination.

The entire series is available, along with a bumper catalogue of shows, all of which will screen later on terrestial TV. They include a period drama, The Confessions Of Frannie Langton, and the finale of the Ancient Roman sitcom Plebs.

You can watch ITVX for free, if you’re happy to sit through ads. But even that miserable John Lewis one, is a fair price for A Spy Among Friends. The best British espionage drama since Alec Guinness in Tinker Tailor.

Really. It’s that good.

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