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The Thirteenth Tale

Mon Dec 30, 9.30-11.30pm, BBC2

Just the quality of cast and crew is enough to pique the interest: Olivia Colman and Vanessa Redgrave as nervous biographer and her evasive, manipulative quarry; Christopher Hampton (‘Atonement’, ‘Dangerous Liasons’) adapting Diane Setterfield’s bestselling gothic thriller; and James Kent, a director experienced in delivering suspense (with ‘Inside Men’ and ‘Marchlands’) and tight character drama (‘Margaret’, ‘The White Queen’).

And sure enough, this formidable team delivers a melancholy but compelling tale of identity, loss and loneliness as Margaret’s (Colman) interrogations of Vida (Redgrave), revealing the latter’s unhappy upbringing alongside her twin sister, gradually draw out unlikely parallels with her own life. It’s a sombre tale, toying with several literary conventions without quite reinventing them, but it’s never less than unsettling and frequently genuinely chilling.