Over the past few years of writing this blog I've been rather open about my love for Sheridan Smith, who from Mrs Biggs, through to last year's sensational Cilla has really cemented herself as one of the UK's finest television actresses.
Her latest feature-length drama The C Word, does nothing to change that, but everything to reaffirm that. The C Word is an adaptation of Lisa Lynch’s inspiring and candid book of the same name, which is all about Lisa's experience of cancer, and is based on her popular blog which was launched shortly after her diagnosis in 2008.
Sheridan was asked personally by Lisa whether she would play her in a drama about her life, something Sheridan calls a "huge honour"...
"Lisa got in touch with me and asked me to play her. I was on holiday and read the script by the pool. I cried buckets and said immediately I’d be honoured. There was no doubt in my mind when I read it that it was special. I was then lucky enough to become text buddies with Lisa. The fact that she asked me to play her was such a huge honour."
I can see why Lisa wanted Sheridan to play her. Sheridan has the ability to make any character she plays feel like your best friend. You relate to every character she's ever played in a way few others are able to do. Sheridan's portrayal of Lisa appears effortless and if she was worried about doing her justice, I can confidently say she did.
It's not long into the 90-minute drama (5 minutes) that Lisa learns that she has breast cancer. paving the way for the rest of the drama to focus on her writing her blog, losing her hair and choosing a wig. Not forgetting her brother's wedding, which she is desperate to attend.
The blog is a way for Lisa to escape the bullshit. She finds refuge in her laptop and enjoys sharing her thoughts with other cancer sufferers, and treats the blog as a perfect antidote for all the crap she finds on the internet. The first thing she writes in her blog, is the following poignant message:
"You’re 28 years old and the last thing you’re expecting is to be diagnosed with stage three breast cancer. When you’re 18 months married to a man you’re crazy about. When you’re right in the middle of things. When all you want is for your life to continue just the way it was going, in the order you had planned it. Then there it is. That out of the blue, life-altering event that drives home a message that runs counter to everything you’ve been led to believe. You are not, it turns out, in control of everything. One minute your life is normal, the next, in an instant, that normality is gone."
Television doesn't shy away from cancer as a topic, but it's often left to the soaps to cover it. Here, cancer takes centre stage and the way in which The C Word covers it is much more about life, and finding the joy in the things around you as opposed to creating bucket lists, reuniting with relatives and death.
In fact, we don't actually witness Lisa die in The C Word, instead this is left to the closing credits to explain. But before you all say I've given the game away, I haven't. This is a spoiler-free review, and the fact that Lisa sadly passed away is well documented .
Of course Sheridan Smith is the lead in The C Word, but there is a great supporting cast including Paul Nicholls who deserves a special mention for his very moving performance as Lisa's devoted yet devastated husband Pete Lynch.
Haydn Gwynne and Michael Maloney play Lisa's parents; Jane and Ian who are extremely supportive of their daughter and choose not to cry in front of Lisa when they see her for the first time with no hair. Instead Ian waits for Lisa to fall asleep on his lap before releasing the tears and Jane is seen in the bedroom sobbing her heart out.
It's often these scenes that are the most difficult to watch. For example, I felt my bottom lip quiver when Pete leave the hospital room and reaches the point where all he can do is cry in the hospital hallway. This is Pete at his most vulnerable, and you can't help but feel for him. I can't imagine having to suddenly cope with your partner having cancer is an easy thing to deal with.
It's also great to see Kris Hallenga, CEO of Coppafeel, who was friends with Lisa has a cameo in The C Word, playing herself. The first time Kris was made aware of Lisa was through her mother who would read Lisa's blog. Kris has spoken about what it was like watching Sheridan play Lisa...
"Sheridan was just amazing and it was like watching Lisa, it really was. Because I knew the storyline for real and having read the book and the blog, it’s just bringing it all to life in front of you. All the way through it I was just thinking about Pete and that it was such an incredible thing to do and agree to."
So finally, I'm sure the question you're all wanting to ask me is "Did I cry?", and I'm not ashamed to say the answer is yes, yes I did. But with a story as raw and emotional as this, and with Sheridan Smith at the helm, it was never going to be a dry eye affair. So if you take one thing away from this review, it's that before you snuggle up in front of the sofa to watch The C Word, ensure you have some tissues handy to wipe away the tears.