Rosamunde Pilcher: The Shell Seekers (TV 2006, 2 x 90 Minutes)



Penelope Keeling (Vanessa Redgrave), the daughter of a famous painter, can look back on a full and varied life: a bohemian childhood divided between London and the wilds of Cornwall, an unhappy wartime marriage — and the one man she truly loved. 

She has raised three very different children: Olivia (Victoria Smurfit), her favourite child, who like herself is both tough and vulnerable; Noel (Charles Edwards), her ruthless and selfish son, and Nancy (Victoria Hamilton), the first-born, embittered by greed and jealousy. 

It is a mild heart attack that allows the sixty-four year old to take some time to reflect on her past. Having discharged herself from hospital, the energetic and independent Penelope returns home to her ramshackle cottage in the English countryside. From here she travels to the Mediterranean paradise of Ibiza to stay with Olivia. There she meets her daughter’s lover, Cosmo (Sebastian Koch), and his daughter, the young and beautiful Antonia (Stephanie Stumph), all the while reminiscing about her time during the war. 

The story unfolds like a jigsaw, switching between the 1940s and the present day. We learn of her marriage to Ambrose (Toby Fisher) and the subsequent birth of her three children, who she eventually learned to accept for themselves. Then there is Richard (Alastair Mackenzie), the dashing, romantic man she loved — but who was lost to the war. 

The story of lost love is mirrored in the present by Antonia’s life, who has come to live with Penelope, and is in love with the mysterious Danus (Lukas Gregorowicz). The secrets and heartbreaks of Penelope’s past threaten to be repeated by the young couple — unless they can learn from her misfortune and be honest with one another. 

However, Penelope’s most alarming discovery is that her most treasured possession, her father’s painting The Shell Seekers, is now worth a small fortune. For it is only then, as her loved ones gather, that their true characters come to the fore, and Penelope is forced to make the decisions that will determine whether they can continue to survive as a family, or be split apart.

Cast & Crew

CastVanessa Redgrave, Maximilian Shell, Sebastian Koch, Stephanie Stumph, Victoria Smurfit, Voctoria Hamilton, Lucas Gregorowicz
DirectorPiers Haggard
WriterBrian Finch
Director of PhotographyTony Imi
Production DesignerRoger Cann
CostumesMécheal Taylor
MusicRichard Blackford
EditorDavid Martin
ProductionVerena von Heeremann
(Executive Producer: ZDF)
Alexander Ollig
(Executive Producer: ZDF)
David Cunliffe (Co-Producer)
Herbert G. Kloiber
(Executive Producer)
Rikolt von Gagern (Producer)