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PBS’s ‘Elizabeth Is Missing’ Is A Masterful Murder Mystery That Will Make You Guess

IIt’s truly been a year to forget, so it’s oddly fitting that a lot of his finest work has addressed the problem of dementia. From the gorgeous Kirsten Johnson Dick Johnson is dead and the haunting of Natalie Erika James Relic, to the surrealist of Josh Trank Capone and The grief of Florian Zeller The father (as well as Tom Dolby’s The artist’s wife and to come by Viggo Mortensen Fall), age-related mental deterioration has turned out to be a topic for many assured cinematic minds. To this collection, we can now also add Elizabeth has disappeared, the kick-off for PBS’s 50th season Masterpiece feature film (premiering Jan.3) starring two-time Oscar winner Glenda Jackson, who poignantly associates her protagonist’s unrestrained condition with a double murder mystery – a marriage that turns this affair into a multifaceted portrait of loss.

Even at 84, Jackson remains a formidable screen presence, and she makes no effort to embody every bittersweet aspect of Maud, an elderly woman who lives alone in a house decorated with notes meant to guide her (and her unreliable spirit) through his mundane days. Maud is introduced to her vanity, singing an old song (“Powder Your Face With Sunshine”) while putting on her jewelry, and director Aisling Walsh filters the first views of her through double-panel mirrors and marbled glass for immediately suggest his headspace blur. It is a formal device that is used everywhere Elizabeth has disappeared (based on Emma Healey’s novel of the same name), and suggests that Maud doesn’t see things correctly – and therefore that not everything we witness should be taken as objective truth.

Beware of a note stuck to her counter, Maud visits her friend Elizabeth (Maggie Steed), who complains about her son Peter (Stuart McQuarrie) as they both dig in his garden. Using her non-gloved fingers, Maud unearths a pocket mirror with flap that recalls the memory of a beautiful blonde. She then leaves after making plans to see Elizabeth the next morning at the Salvation Army outpost where Maud worked. On the way home, Maud contemplates the blonde again, who talks about characters we haven’t yet met, then quickly evaporates. The next day, Maud is picked up by Elizabeth, and when she can’t find her at home – but sees, through the slanted blinds, that Elizabeth’s glasses are still on the table inside – she comes. to suspect that something terrible has happened to him best friend.

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