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Lost in memories

(Mark Mainz/STV Productions/PBS)


Lost in memories

Psychological thriller Elizabeth Is Missing intertwines mystery with the ravaging effects of dementia

In PBS’ Elizabeth Is Missing, Maud Horsham (Glenda Jackson) is a dementia-­ridden woman who litters her home with reminders to lock her door, visit a friend, and make coffee. When her friend Elizabeth fails to show for a rendezvous, no one else seems to care. But Maud investigates the disappearance and, in the process, the unsolved disappearance of Maud’s sister from 70 years prior. 

The unexpected psychological thriller delves into Maud’s experience of Alzheimer’s. “I don’t like it,” she says. “All the blanks.” The drama throws viewers between present and past. Like Maud, we can’t fill in the blanks until the end. Rather than presenting a quaint old lady with memory lapses, the film shows the ravaging effects of the disease: confusion, anger, and heartbreak for both her and her kin. In one scene, Maud lashes out at her granddaughter, whom she doesn’t recognize. “Get rid of her. She’s lazy,” Maud barks. Her daughter yells, “Don’t you ever, ever talk to my daughter like that again! … Go to the loo and get into bed and don’t say another word!”

Jackson’s superb performance reminds us of the fragile nature of memory, the gift of friendship, and the longing for justice. 

—Ivan Mesa is a graduate of the WJI mid-­career course and an editor for The Gospel Coalition