Mildred Pierce

Todd Haynes could hardly have picked a more pertinent time to revisit this depression-era saga from novelist James M. Cain, concerned, as it is, with bourgeois ambition run shockingly, silently amok.

As the scorned homemaker-cum-enterprising restaurateur of the title, Kate Winslet has seldom been better, navigating the giddy vicissitudes of Pierce’s romance with a spendthrift playboy (Guy Pearce) and her fraught relationship with her prima donna daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) with characteristic empathy and nuance.

But the real winner here is melodrama itself. Too often scorned as either failed or bad drama – or the outmoded, foetal form of the same – Haynes reasserts the genre’s significance as a channel for bold socio-ideological comment – synthesised, of course, with all the trimmings of great popular entertainment. This is exceptional TV.

Gerard Elson works at Readings St Kilda.