Kelly Macdonald

'The Child in Time' Recap

Benedict Cumberbatch and Kelly Macdonald in "The Child in Time" (Photo: Courtesy of Pinewood Television, SunnyMarch TV and MASTERPIECE for BBC One and MASTERPIECE)

The Child in Time is one of those dramas that doesn’t turn out to be quite the story you think it is. On the surface, it’s a tale about a lost child. But, it also isn’t, in the most basic sense. The drama isn’t about the search for the missing Kate and it (spoiler alert!) offers little resolution about what happened to her. Her parents (spoiler alert, again!) don’t get her back. There’s no happy ending. She remains forever apart, both present and absent, a Schroedinger’s cat of a girl who is somehow both alive and dead for the purposes of this narrative. If you were looking for a crime thriller, a dramatic mystery or even a linear story that makes sense, you’re surely bound to be disappointed here.

Instead, The Child in Time is a meditation on loss and grief, telling the story of what it takes to move past the worst thing that’s ever happened to you. In short: It’s kind of a lot for an evening on Easter Sunday, though those that stick through it may find the performances contained within worthwhile. (Or, at least, I did.) The acting is top notch and the emotions feel gut-wrenchingly real. However, if you find yourself wishing the story perhaps spent a bit more time on Kate herself or the particulars behind her disappearance rather than the gamut of British political thought about child rearing or a weirdo subplot about a grown man’s descent into what appears to be childlike madness, trust me, you’re not alone.