Friday, November 22, 2013

it's the beauty, not the ugly, that hurts the most--Thoughts on the Sundance Channel's Rectify

I've been trying to write a post about Rectify since I watched it, but it never really comes together. I happened to see on Twitter that the Sundance Channel is running a marathon Saturday, though, so I thought I'd try...because this show is an absolute gem. If you happen to get the Sundance Channel you might want to consider recording it. It's only 6 episodes long and I feel like it's the kind of show that is worth your time to watch. It does have some graphic qualities..i.e. one episode in particular which focuses on the various ways the characters deal with their sexual selves, but it is such a rich and fascinating show.

I read an article earlier this year about how TV has become the new's the new cultural touchstone, recapping is the new book club, the DVR queue the new nightstand, etc. I thought it was an interesting idea...and even as a lover of books not one I'm opposed to. I sort of support whatever helps us break down the walls of isolation around us and come together. TV shows, like books, can provide a way for us to talk about some of the more difficult things in life in a safer context. And the increase in the quality of television has a lot to do with this. But for all the shows that article mentions, Rectify perhaps has come the closest to replicating the experience of reading a book for me.

Rectify is the story of Daniel Holden. He was arrested as a teenager for the murder of a teen girl and has spent the last 19 years of his life on Death Row. But then, new evidence comes to light which vacates his sentence. And so he returns, with his family, to try to figure out his life once again. So you have Daniel's reentry which is fascinating and also the ways in which everyone in his life has to renegotiate their own identities because of his return. His sister, Amantha, his step brother, his mother, his half brother. His return impacts them and the way they feel in their lives. There's also the ongoing mystery--did Daniel actually commit the murder or is he innocent. Daniel himself seems not know which is fascinating. I also love, though, that he fully believes himself capable of having done it. Being so intimately acquainted with one's own darkness is a hard but true thing. What is reality? This is another question heavily visited in the show as Daniel's years of confinement and isolation have blurred the lines for him.

Daniel is fascinating, but the supporting characters are equally interesting. They are written with "deep love" and it shows. Explorations of faith, love, family, right, and wrong emerge in their stories. Tawney, Daniel's sister-in-law, is one of my favorite characters of faith on any television show. Not because she's deep and wise, but because she feels so real.

But it's not only the great characters or themes which make this show stand out. The cinematography is lovely, the acting is stellar, and the world of the show feels so fully realized, it's like you are only scratching at the surface of all that lies beneath. And that's what I mean when I say it's like reading a good book, a story that gives you so much depth, and yet you know there's so much more.

The quote I used in the title of this post says it all really (and how amazing for a TV show to give you a quote for the ages, I mean...) something so beautifully crafted as this show, made with so much love and dedication, a story that delights and revels in the fullness of humanity--the ups and the downs and the joy and the pain, a story so dedicated to illuminating our shared human condition and in so doing revealing only how much more remains in truly beautiful. In a way that hurts deep down.

So...yeah. If you have time, if you have the Sundance Channel, maybe you'll want to give it a go? It's also available for download or on DVD. I was lucky enough to catch a marathon AMC did a few months ago. I'm so glad I did.


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