Thirteen: BBC Three Online

Imagine living captive in a pitch-black cellar for 13 years. Escaping should be one of the happiest days of your life: you are reunited with your family and can finally live as you always intended.

However, for Ivy Moxam (Jodie Comer), the road to happiness is not at all that simple.

BBC Three’s new drama, Thirteen, adopts a similar plot to the recent, critically acclaimed film, Room, directed by Lenny Abrahamson.

On her way to meet a friend, 13-year-old Ivy is kidnapped and locked in a dark cellar, surviving off nothing more than cold tinned food until she makes her escape 13 years later.

However, the plot develops in complexity as it becomes more evident that Ivy’s story is riddled with inconsistencies. Beginning to doubt whether Ivy is telling the truth at all, her sister’s own suspicions, combined with those of the viewer, make for an addictive story. 

The programme’s cinematography visually draws the audience into the story, with greyish hues cast over Ivy’s drab hair and gaunt face that accurately convey the physical and psychological trauma she has been through. Ivy finds it hard to adjust to normal life, becoming overwhelmed by media attention.

It is only around an old childhood friend that she feels relaxed: however 13 years is a long time for people to change and grow apart. The show evocatively demonstrates that while Ivy’s life has been put on hold, the world she left behind has continued without her.

However, Comer’s performance seems to lack conviction in conveying the appropriate emotion that is surely required for Ivy’s situation.

This could be due to Brie Larson’s Oscar-winning performance in Room, which set my expectations so high – especially as the two plots are so alike. It seems as though the BBC has jumped on the bandwagon of productions concerning kidnapped children escaping after many years, believing it to be a winning formula for success.

Perhaps it is that I have seen so many brilliant similar storylines that caused my lack of enthusiasm with the first episode. Undoubtedly though, the unresolved mysteries in the programme are intriguing, and I can see the series growing on me each episode.

Image: Dave Bleasdale

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