Series Review, Keeping Faith, BBC Wales by Gareth Williams

(4 / 5)

Having just watched the final episode of Keeping Faith on BBC Wales, I’m asking myself: Is this a golden age for Welsh television drama? Hinterland was critically-acclaimed. Bang featured in the national press. Gwaith/Cartref continues to be a marker for quality Welsh-language drama. Parch has just entered its third series. And Craith will be broadcast in the English language later this year as Hidden. It appears that one cannot move for drama made in Wales. And it’s about time too. Gone are the days when S4C was presumed to be solely for first-language Welsh speakers. Once, BBC Wales-backed dramas were so few and far between that their broadcast almost felt like a national event. Now, subtitles are no longer a barrier, in large part thanks to the phenomenal success of The Killing. Meanwhile, BBC Wales will be following up Keeping Faith with Hidden later this year.

Of course, quantity does not automatically mean quality. However, in the case of the above, quality most certainly matches the output. In terms of Keeping Faith, this has not only been reflected in its incredible cast of Welsh actors but in the gripping storyline and its atmospheric soundtrack. So, if you haven’t managed to catch it yet, here are three reasons why you should go to BBC iPlayer and download the series:

Eve Myles

Fans of Torchwood and Broadchurch will already know the brilliance of Eve Myles. Personally, I’ve run out of superlatives to describe her acting skills. Here, she plays the lead character Faith, wife to Evan (Bradley Freegard), mother to three children, and a lawyer in her husband’s family firm. One Wednesday morning, her life is turned upside-down when Evan leaves home and disappears without trace. Over the course of the next eight episodes, we see this strong, no-nonsense woman face the most challenging emotional, professional and personal pressures of her life. In doing so, Myles produces a character of incredible complexity with seeming simplicity. She manages to wholly embody her character and, as such, Faith’s every expression is drenched in meaning. There is a moment in episode two, for instance, when her vacant stare manages to reveal a plethora of internal emotion. We see her frustration, pain, anger, sadness and confusion all packed tightly into that single expression. Only the best actors can convey so much through doing so little. This is not to say that Myles’ natural physicality does not also enhance the strength of her performance. There is a wonderful moment in episode six, in the boardroom of the law firm, where Faith’s frustration and joy is brilliantly conveyed through the movement of Myles. In this same episode, when Faith is in conversation with Gael Reardon (Angeline Bell), Myles moves so quickly from a smile to a frown that it adds a light humour to the serious nature of the circumstances. In so doing, we learn so much about her character. It is these small moments, in which so much is communicated, that make this such a standout performance. She really is one of the best actresses of her generation.

The Music of Amy Wadge

Alongside Eve Myles, the music has got to be the star of this show. It is beautifully constructed, weaving in and out of the series like the ripples of water in the opening titles. Written, composed and performed by Amy Wadge, it is gorgeous in its simplicity and captivating in its tone. It is a bit of a coup to land a woman who has written songs for some of the biggest stars in the music industry (Ed Sheeran and Kacey Musgraves among them). Yet her star quality is surely what elevates this soundtrack to become a powerful narrator within the series. Wadge has clearly spent time with the character of Faith, connecting so deeply with the character’s emotions that at times the music speaks what no dialogue could. As such, it perfectly complements Myles’ performance, even enhancing it at times. Before going out to buy the soundtrack however, I would recommend a listen to the Welsh translation, sung by Ela Hughes. If you like the originals, you will love these Welsh-language versions.

The Story

Keeping Faith is first and foremost a drama about family. The mystery of Evan’s disappearance may be the hook, but the central focus is on the family. To this end, Matthew Hall has enabled the series to steer the course of eight episodes without ever overstretching the plot twists or exhausting the narrative threads. It enables us to remain intrigued by the disappearance of Evan whilst giving us a fully formed world of characters all with secrets of their own. As a result, the central mystery becomes laced with other mysteries as the web of family affairs widens. It is not only the marriage of Faith and Evan that is put under the microscope, but those of Tom and Marion (Evan’s parents) and Terry and Bethan (Evan’s sister) too. Add a cast of corrupt police officers, a criminal underworld and a client that has feelings for Faith and there is no shortage of action. All that is left is to give a nod to some of the cast for bringing Hall’s intriguing narrative to life so vividly, among them Mark Lewis Jones (Stella), Aneurin Hughes (Hinterland) and Matthew Gravelle (Broadchurch).

What do you think? Is this a golden age for Welsh drama? And what are among your favourites? Answers on a postcard (or in the comments below).

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21 thoughts on “Series Review, Keeping Faith, BBC Wales by Gareth Williams”

  1. Move over Scandinavian Thrillers and make room for this Welsh, white knuckle, wonder! Without a shadow of a doubt this drama is worthy of praise. I loved it and fell in love with Eve…..to the point I’ve convinced myself we would be best friends. Aside from Eve the rest of the cast were also superb. I developed a huge soft spot for the bad boy Mark Lewis Jones!
    I can’t wait for the next series. I’m still in shock Eve considered stopping acting? That would’ve been a complete waste. She is talented beyond belief and manages to reach deep into her soul to make viewers feel the emotional turmoil she’s going through.

  2. My wife and I are enthralled by Losing Faith. Televisions finest drama for a long time. Great script, wonderful acting and such beautiful scenery.

  3. Sorry not for me, by the end I could not care less what had happened to Evan. The haunting music was a little annoying and there are much better thrillers out there that keep you gripped more than this did.

    On the plus side Eve is most definately a fantastic actress and it was only down to her acting and the character Baldini that I continued watching !!

    1. I totally agree. My husband and I are so bored with it, as of week 2 that we could not care less what happened to Evan. Many of the actors’ voices are inaudible and we have no hearing problems. Husband has found a synopsis of this appalling, waste of money Drama which will save us from watching to the end and spare us from the chronic boredom of another tiresome series.

    2. Same here I agree, background music annoying and every Police Officer corrupt, needed more balance, Lead actress brilliant and it would have sunk without her dynamics c performance.

    1. Hi Carolyn,

      It came down off iPlayer after the Bank Holiday unfortunately. I don’t know whether it will be broadcast on the BBC proper at some point? Keep an eye out (there’s always the DVD with any luck!)

  4. I sort of enjoyed this series. However, there were too many holes unanswered that were frustrating – why was Steven suddenly beaten up by the Glins? Did not get a clear picture of why Even’s mother was unhappy? What was the point of her telling Evan that Tom was not his father, especially if the man was dead?
    Why did the female detective who called Faith say nothing but laugh maniacally, seemed really stupid. Did not get the connection btw Faith and Gael Reardon so that Gael was willing to help her at the end? Det. Williams was arrested, but yet was able to turn up at Faith’s house as if she had not been?! I never once got the idea that Faith and Steven had lovers feelings for each other, where did that come from in the final scene? And Evan showing up out of the blue, in the final scene, smiling as if nothing had happened!! Not very believable. As I said too many frustrating unanswered holes. Not sure I want to sit through more episodes that will leave me asking more questions.

  5. SPOILERS BELOW

    Pros: Eve Myles, made it all worth it, she’s great. And the central character was well written and conceived.

    Cons: The enjoyment of the series was damn near blotted out by the gibberish ending. As the flashbacks and bits of evidence creep in about Evan’s actions and fate in the last couple episodes they were always in the form of some revelation about some kind of scumbag behavior he indulged in along with a pat little speech about how he felt really guilty and was only doing it for his family. Bulls**t. There was no need for these little rehabilitations, and the fact that the main character seemed to swallow these whole as they came despite reams of evidence that the guy had gone seriously off the rails just undercut the whole business at the end. Various other problems with the Evan character’s fate made the resolution of the central ‘mystery’ of the series just seem irrelevant. So, the mother’s revelation maybe made him kill himself, but a year of infidelity, financial failure, mob lawyering, drug smuggling, and finally being blackmailed into turning informant for dirty cops didn’t shake him? Sure. And that little speech he made to his mother a week before he disappeared that she was jealous of his “contentment?” Meaningless in the context of what we knew at that point. So, did the dirty cops kill him? Did he kill himself? Is he STILL ALIVE? Who gives a s**t. By the end, I didn’t.

    1. I agree. There, if you like, an unwritten contract between the writer and the audience. This contract states that if the writer raises questions in the narrative, questions that keep the audience watching to find out how they will be resolved, those questions (broadly speaking) need to be answered. Why did Evan disappear and where was he all this time? Unresolved. Was Evan unfaithful to Faith with Mrs Reardon? Unresolved. Why does Mrs Reardon, who was previously threatening to kill Faith should she not pay the £120,000, suddenly threaten the dodgy cops to save Faith and her child? Unresolved. Why does Faith suddenly hand DI Williams, a woman who was trying to frame her for murder and have her children taken away, the piece of evidence (the cellphone) which incriminates her tormentor? Why does Arthur, previously a drunk and drug addict, suddenly change sides to save Faith? Unresolved. Is DI Williams working for the dodgy cops, and if so, why do they arrest her for leaving the scene of a fatal accident? Unresolved. Has Steve Baldini put a kill contract on Mrs Reardon – he did, didn’t he? Unresolved.
      So, yes, it was a very interesting series, one which we greatly enjoyed and were looking forward to seeing wound up in a clever/satisfying way. But it wasn’t. New jeopardies were introduced in the final episode (kidnapping Faith’s daughter) totally out of left field, which resolved nothing. What about Tom’s relationship with DCI Parry? Did Tom know he was corrupt – is Tom himself corrupt? All left hanging in the air.
      This series did not so much end as stop.
      That having been said, Eve Myles was a very appealing heroine (proving, once again, that it is advantageous to have characters we can actually like in dramas), the photography was great, the scenery great, the acting uniformly excellent. Just spend a bit more money/time on a coherent plot, and you have a winner!

  6. Big mistake by the BBC to, once again, drown out dialogue with overpowering music. Music is fine but not over dialogue and not so loud. Also when actors whisper to one another it does need to be above a certain volume so that viewers can hear it and not have to lipread.

  7. Totally gripped by the series, great story line with enough twists and turns to keep my interest. Eve myles was superb, very convincing. PLEASE CAN WE HAVE SUB TITLES. My husband kept saying “what did they just say”?

    Can’t wait for season 2.

  8. Bored stiff after episode 2, but stuck with it. It really didn’t get any better. The story was nonsense, the twee music was incredibly annoying, and if the rumours of series 2 are true, it won’t be counting me among its viewers.

  9. Absolutely loved this series. Quality acting from the cast.
    Are we all a little in love with Steve now?
    It’s great to see such marvellous welsh drama airing at primetime on the BBC.
    More please.

  10. Loved the whole series. The plot was complex but I am glad that I followed through and I expect that more will be revealed with the second series. I thought the acting was superb – the scenery and music greatly enhanced the story and I am looking forward to the next series.

  11. We were gripped by this series even though there were so many holes in the plot it was practically in tatters. Somehow it was still great story-telling and bloody marvelous acting. Well done! Good luck with Series 2, but please tighten the nuts and bolts on the plot!

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