The Woman in the Wall review – BBC drama starring Ruth Wilson

“The Woman in the Wall’s title did not seduce me,” said Carol Midgley in The Times: plonking the words “woman” or “girl” in the title of novels and adaptations became fashionable some while ago (“The Girl on the Train”, “The Woman in the Window”, etc.), and it now grates. Yet the drama turned out to be one of the finest I’ve seen this year. “Easily.” 

Ruth Wilson is perfectly cast as Lorna, a “pitiful, vulnerable” woman from a fictional town on the west coast of Ireland who was robbed of her baby in one of the country’s notorious Magdalene laundries. Wilson gives an extraordinary, “physical performance”; and she is well supported by a cast that includes Hilda Fay as another victim of the laundries, and Philippa Dunne as a campaigner fighting for justice. “My only reservation with tragic subject matter such as this is that it might be so good, it’s unbearable.” 

Series writer Joe Murtagh and his producers have certainly “thrown everything they’ve got” at this, said Rachel Cooke in The New Statesman. The result, alas, struck me as a “preposterous mess”. There are “some OK moments, I suppose”, but a lot of “portentous cheese”, too – “knives plunged into gaudy reproductions of Jesus Christ”, thunder claps that are “straight out of Poltergeist”, and so on. And to make this scandal so “cartoonish” is to “fail fully to acknowledge its heinousness”. I found it “hysterically overcooked”, agreed Ed Power in The Irish Times. Cast aside, no Irish people were involved in the making of this drama – and it shows.

Where to watch: BBC iPlayer