Significant Others

When a mother goes missing a family is brought together, but must face deep resentment.

When a family implodes through a missing person’s case there’s trauma, guilt, yearning and buried bitterness that rises to the surface in new ABC drama Significant Others.

Teenager Hanna (Zoë Steiner) appears to witness her mother Sarah drowning off Sydney beaches. It would be enough to send the most balanced of us into total despair, but Hanna is convinced her mother has made it back to safety and is wandering dazed, probably with memory loss.

Compassionate policewoman Deborah (Rarriwuy Hick) gently elicits the circumstances from Hanna and her teenage brother Ciaran (Gulliver McGrath) as family members begin to arrive.

First is dancer Dan (Kenneth Moraleda), the adopted brother of Sarah, and his fiancé, Wayne (Todd McKenney). They emerge as the two caring gay uncles who will need to stay the course when combative sister and property broker Ursula (Rachael Blake) arrives.

“Mum thought you were a bitch,” Ciaran tells her, and it isn’t hard to see why.

The other sibling is Claire (Alison Bell), who breaks up with her partner (Sean Barker), gets blotto and arrives late in the middle of this family crisis.

As choppers scour the ocean for any sign of Sarah, well-meaning locals being to drop off casseroles -and even flowers- seemingly resigned to an outcome that Hanna is not yet prepared to entertain.

But Constable Deborah, collating all the facts, begins to unravel a family with history and deep resentment.

“We really do love each other. You know how family is,” Ursula insists.

Director Tony Krawitz navigates a most believable family unit from Tommy Murphy’s script. Everybody underplays their part, creating an authentic tapestry that is either trying to keep it together or avoiding their clear conflicts. The visuals are wintry which, together with the lower socio-economic setting, makes for a believable Australian family unit. It’s also a very diverse ensemble whether as principals or supporting players.

The two teen performances from Zoë Steiner and Gulliver McGrath are stand-outs and Rarriwuy Hick continues to deliver following her work on True Colours and Wentworth. But it’s also great to see Todd McKenney in a dramatic performance as the stable partner to Kenneth Moraleda.

Mystery surrounds the role of local tradesman Ali (Fayssal Bazzi) and an elusive young woman George (Diana Popovska), who happened to aid Hanna on the day of her mother’s disappearance.

After recent successes with Wentworth and Heartbreak High, Fremantle continues to maintain a noteworthy drama output.

Signficant Others‘ story works as part-mystery around Sarah’s absence and part-melodrama in its essay on the family unit. It lands as an introspective work where the sum of the parts makes for a satisfying whole as the viewer unravels how this family derailed, and considers the fragility of our own relationships.

Signficant Others screens 8:30pm Sunday on ABC.

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