We first meet Miri Matteson as she frantically hacks at her own fringe in preparation for a job interview. This kind of bumbling impulsivity is a staple of Miri’s approach to life, we soon learn.
Miri (played by Daisy Haggard) has just been released home after spending the last eighteen years in prison for murder. It’s not just that her family have been living their lives without her for nearly twenty years, but Miri has become completely isolated from the world she lives in. The world has moved on and didn’t wait for her, incarcerated, to catch up.
As we piece together what happened eighteen years ago, the true nature of the characters begins to become clear. Everyone is either afraid of Miri or absolutely despises her, or both, and this affects how they react to her now she has re-integrated into the outside world.
Most of the characters are energetic and peculiar, from brutally honest and antagonistic probation officer Janice (Jo Martin), to Miri’s new boss, chip shop owner Nathan (Liam Williams). These ridiculous characters contrast against the sensitivity of neighbour and potential love interest Billy (Adeel Akhtar) and also the uptight and, for some reason, furious former best friend Mandy (Christine Bottomley).
Set against the backdrop of Kent’s murky pebbled beaches, Back To Life develops a similar feeling of tranquil tragedy to that of Ricky Gervais’ After Life, which is, at times, rather breathtaking. Back To Life is a programme that shows us what we are capable of doing to each other, and that’s quite scary. But it also shows how people who love each other deep down under the surface are capable of putting their conflicts aside when it really matters.
Jauntily paced and saturated with sarcastic remarks thrown out between deeply flawed individuals, Back To Life is tense and filled with conflict. Haggard’s performance is stunning, yet utterly heartbreaking.