Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is the greatest ever relationship drama. The Beautiful Lie is an Australian reimagining of this story set in contemporary middle-class life, exploring the love lives of both ‘happy’ and ‘unhappy’ families in all their mess and grandeur.
Long retired tennis champion, Anna Ivin (Sarah Snook) flies home from a family holiday to help save her brother Kingsley’s (Daniel Henshall) marriage. His wife Dolly (Celia Pacquola) has just found out he has been having an affair with their au pair and is threatening to leave.
At the airport, Anna is introduced by chance to music producer, Skeet (Benedict Samuel). They fall into an instant and helpless attraction. Then, when they witness a fatal accident together their lives are fused. The problem is that Skeet happens to be the fiancé of Dolly’s sister Kitty (Sophie Lowe) – who has arranged an engagement party and invited Anna.
Socially awkward family-friend Peter (Alexander England) suffers from a case of very bad timing when he declares his love for Kitty… She turns him down and he is humiliated. At the engagement party, Anna and Skeet can’t stay away from one another, leaving Kitty suspicious to the point of hysteria.
Anna flees to escape temptation. Skeet follows. This is the beginning of a passionate and complicated love affair that unravels not only Anna’s life and her seven year marriage but the lives of all those around her. Her husband (and sports-star celebrity) Xander (Rodger Corser) is shattered.
He tries everything to get her back – from magnanimity to bitter vengeance. When her beloved son Kasper (Lewis Fletcher) is so hurt he rejects her, Anna is devastated, realising the consequences of her affair too late. Skeet never believed in marriage until he wrecked one. Then Anna falls pregnant.
Meanwhile, Dolly and Kingsley explore forgiveness as a form of torture and through it reappreciate one another. Raw from her experience with Skeet and searching for honesty, Kitty is finally able to see Peter for the good man he is. They fall into a more gentle kind of love, learning how to fight and be naked around each other, discovering love slowly and steadily. Xander falls in love with a new woman (who adores him AND his tennis trophies) allowing him to rise above the ashes of his detonated marriage to Anna.
As time goes on and the love of the other couples deepens, the passion between Anna and Skeet begins to dissipate. She obsessively worries their attraction is fading and does everything she can to get it back. She tries to isolate Skeet by moving their little family to the country but he only resents her. The more she reaches for him the more he pulls away. Anna suffers fits of mania and jealousy until finally, when she suspects Skeet of falling for a younger woman, she spins out of control and kills herself.
A grand, complex love story of love, lust and betrayal across three families and generations, The Beautiful Lie also stars Gina Riley, Catherine McClements, Robert Menzies and Dan Wyllie, and produced by the powerhouse partnership of John Edwards and Imogen Banks (Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo, Offspring, Puberty Blues, Tangle).
The Beautiful Lie premieres on ABC TV on Sunday 18th October – 8.30pm. For more information, visit: www.abc.net.au for details.
Image: Benedict Samuel and Sarah Snook feature in The Beautiful Lie (supplied)