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When Love Dies (1990)

Courtesy of Picture Palace Films

Main image of When Love Dies (1990)
For 4 Play, Channel 4, tx. 20/1/1990
80 minutes, colour
DirectorHorace Ové
Production CompanyPicture Palace Productions
ProducerMalcolm Craddock
ScriptNigel Moffatt

Cast: Josette Simon (Annabel); Brian Bovell (Richard); Norman Beaton (pastor); Stefan Kalipha (Charles); Mona Hammond (Bella)

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A young man looks back over his unhappy marriage and struggles to come to terms with his wife's suicide.

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When Love Dies opens with the picture book marriage of fresh faced 23 year-old Richard to Annabel, surrounded by family, including Annabel's two younger brothers and a sister. This bright, happy wedding is quickly followed by a darker scene: a terrified Richard is pursued and assaulted in a cemetery by Annabel's now adult siblings.

The journey Richard makes from the first to the second image lies at the heart of this complex drama. Supported by a first class cast, writer Nigel Moffatt and director Horace Ové delicately unfold the story in a series of multi-layered flashbacks. First, an obviously mentally disturbed Richard is back home with his unconventional family, locked away in a front room reliving the painful scenes of his disintegrating marriage.

Beyond the locked door, in another time-frame, his family live out frustrated dreams, hidden secrets and lies. Arnold, Richard's inept brother, has spent a lifetime redecorating the passage as a way to get to know his daughter Emily, who he abandoned to the care of his mother Bella.

House-bound Bella spends her time watching horse-racing or tormenting her husband Charles by refusing to reveal whether he is the real father of her two sons. Her life is occasionally enlivened by short visits from the corrupt local Pastor, over whom she exerts a powerful hold. Pre-pubescent Emily, meanwhile, studiously avoids her real father, Arnold, and steals from Charles.

As this dysfunctional black family skirt around their problems, Richard's own demons consume him. Confronting ghostly apparitions of Annabel, he is overwhelmed by guilt for forcing her to have children to prove his manhood. He begs forgiveness for not noticing her descent, first into madness and finally exhaustion and death, brought on by the weight of the unwanted children.

'When love dies life becomes intolerable', like an unbroken circle around Hell. At the end, Arnold completes redecorating the passage and makes tentative contact with Emily. Richard visits Annabel at the cemetery to say goodbye. The drama ends where it begins: Richard surrounded at the grave by Annabel's siblings, ready once more to chase and assault him. This is the price he and his family will pay over and again.

Onyekachi Wambu

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Video Clips
1. Richard's nightmares (2:24)
2. Bella's secret (4:13)
3. Annabel's reproach (4:29)
Introduction by Nigel Moffatt (0:56)
Beaton, Norman (1934-1994)
Hammond, Mona
Ové, Horace (1939-)
Channel 4 Drama