Benedict Cumberbatch offers a stunning performance in Ian McEwan’s “The Child in Time”

It’s a mystery Sherlock Holmes could solve.

Or at least Benedict Cumberbatch .

An everyday moment triggers a crisis in the lives of a happy, successful British couple in MASTERPIECE: The Child in Time, Ian McEwan’s haunting tale of a lost child and redeemed love, starring Cumberbatch and Kelly Macdonald.

PBS Distribution releases the program on DVD April 3.  It will also be available for digital download.

Adapted from McEwan’s 1987 Whitbread Prize-winning novel, which critic Christopher Hitchens called the author’s “masterpiece,” this film earned high praise during its recent UK broadcast. The Guardian found it “a deeply affecting portrait of loss and what that does to love,” and The Times lauded it as “a rarity: nuanced, unmawkish, unsentimental.”

Cumberbatch stars as Stephen Lewis, a noted children’s book author, and Macdonald plays his wife, Julie, a professional musician. They are the doting parents of Kate (played by Beatrice White), an impish four-year-old, their only child.
Then one day Kate mysteriously disappears during a shopping outing with Stephen. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare, and it upends Stephen and Julie’s lives in extraordinary ways.

The Child in Time also stars Stephen Campbell Moore as Charles, Stephen’s publisher and best friend; and Saskia Reeves as Charles’ wife, Thelma. Charles gets Stephen appointed to a government commission on child care reform in hopes of taking his friend’s mind off Kate, who by this point has been missing for three years. But to Stephen, whose vivid memories of Kate are ever present, the committee’s direction seems maddeningly out of touch with what children actually need.

Kate haunts every aspect of Stephen’s life—as a phantom at his side, a voice in his ear, a fleeting glimpse in a crowd of school children.

Estranged from Julie due to the stress of their mutual loss, Stephen makes an attempt to reconnect, going to the village where she now lives.

There he is overcome with a powerful feeling of déjà vu at a pub called The Bell, where he spots a woman who appears to be from a moment in time, decades ago, and the woman acknowledges him. He is certain he has been there before, but he can’t think when.

Meanwhile, Charles has abruptly left his publishing job and retired to the country with Thelma, where he reverts deeper and deeper into his boyhood in a disquieting reversal of normal aging.

With the gentlest touch of the fantastical, this riveting story takes viewers in and out of the present, past, and future, exploring the twin themes of the title—childhood and time—and leading to a conclusion that is as surprising as it is gratifying.


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