Director: Gillies MacKinnon
Cast: Poppy Lee Friar, Will Tudor, Jaime Winstone, Stephen Tompkinson
Watch Torvill & Dean online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent)
With ITV’s Dancing on Ice racking up over 10 seasons, and with I, Tonya making a splash recently, it’s no surprise that ITV commissioned its own ice skating drama for Christmas 2018. And so, we have the life story of Torvill & Dean, the iconic king and queen of the ice, who dominated the sport (and all the awards available) back in the 1980s. The biopic takes us back to the days when Jayne Torvill was just a wee girl first venturing onto the rink and Christopher Dean was the ickle creative bad boy of Nottingham’s ice scene.
With Christopher’s mum leaving, and Jayne wanting someone with passion to (ahem) liberate her creatively (Jayne’s parents’ reaction to this is priceless), a natural partnership forms between them, as Jayne is determined to express herself and Christopher obsessively pours his devotion into being perfect on skates. The direction and editing makes them look just that when they’re in action.
But when they’re off the rink, the dialogue is often wobbly, the themes unsubtly blared over the loud speakers and the passion often a little chilled as a result – especially compared to I, Tonya’s blazing, darkly hilarious and heart-wrenching display. That’s no fault of Poppy Lee Friar and Will Tudor, who are both very good as the timid and tempestuous odd couple, the former a northerner who winds up skating by chance on a school trip and the latter a northerner with a poor family and an unfaithful dad. It’s almost worth tuning in alone for the ace Stephen Tompkinson as George Torvill, who, between Eric, Ernie & Me and a stint in A Christmas Carol at the Old Vic theatre, is enjoying something of a renaissance.
Together, the committed ensemble ensure that when it comes to faintly cheesy biopics, Torvill & Dean skates around its subjects with likeable commitment.