We just finished the third season of Last Tango in Halifax, a British serial starring Derek Jacobi, Anne Reid, Nicola Walker and Sarah Lancashire (among others). Jacobi and Reid play Alan and Celia, a couple in their mid-seventies who had been in love as teenagers but then lost each other through bizarre circumstances. Now, after the death of Alan’s wife, they are reunited and quickly plan to marry. They both have daughters (Gillian and Caroline, played by Walker and Lancashire) with semi-functional families and major lover problems, producing an endless series of traumatic challenges.
Last Tango in Halifax is rather melodramatic and sometimes feels way over the top in the way it creates one crisis after another for these families. But what sets Last Tango in Halifax apart are the extraordinary acting and dialogue, among the best ever seen on television. The dialogue in particular feels incredibly real, almost always sounding exactly like what I would expect these people to say in the situation in which they find themselves. This is obviously unusual, because I kept noticing it. It’s not improvised, but it feels improvised, which only great writing and acting can accomplish.
Last Tango in Halifax is about very flawed people who make you want to pull your hair out in frustration at their self-destructive behaviour. What makes it work is that all of these flawed people are trying to help each other become better people, because, like the rest of us, they are all good people at heart who are struggling to find their way. Great stuff (and the gorgeous North England cinematography doesn’t hurt)! Last Tango in Halifax gets ****. My mug is up.