First Cut – Ashes To Diamonds Review: Death’s Just The Beginning

July 24, 2009 by  
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FIRST CUT – ASHES TO DIAMONDS: Friday 24th July, Channel 4, 7:35pm Alert Me

When Keith Richards made headlines by doing a line of his father’s ashes, even those familiar with the old rocker’s legendary exploits raised an eyebrow.

If the Rolling Stones guitarist had realised the range of commemorative options open to him, he probably would have snorted his old man anyway – but at least it would have been an informed choice.

In Britain, more and more people are opting to be cremated rather than buried when they finally kick the bucket, (an inexplicably high figure of 1200 a day according to the narrator). Subsequently, as a means of avoiding an urn backlog on the mantelpiece, family members are becoming more creative.

Ashes to Diamonds tells the story of three people who have special plans for the charred remains of their loved ones.

It opens with a woman gazing at the ashes of her late husband – and without a hint of irony – remarking that they really didn’t resemble a person at all. As the presenter struggles to find the words to deal with this blatantly obvious statement, we are swept into a montage, and a pretty odd one at that.

Teapots, egg-timers and even fish-food; it seems that these days they can do pretty much anything with your scorched leftovers.

When Helen’s husband Steve passes away, she decides to celebrate his life prolifically. She has some of his ashes made into a diamond, before more adventurously putting the rest in gun cartridges for his old shooting buddies and secretly stashing the remainder in the cupboard of a funeral director.

Unsatisfied with this, she reveals that in her will, her poor daughters will in-turn be made to convert her remains into similar jewels, lumbering them both with a set of permanently gaudy reminders of their departed parents.

Meanwhile, Jill is having the ashes of her husband put into a painting, and Charlie has arranged for the remains of her brother – who died tragically in a moped accident – to be made into a necklace.

It just about holds the attention for half an hour, and fits the bill as a small but positive portion of trivia. Consequently, one of the programmes strong points is its self-awareness as a scheduling lightweight.

Despite concentrating on the processes attached to death, it is far from morbid, and in many parts succeeds in creating quite an uplifting mood by demonstrating the sense of closure felt by these people, as they remember their loved ones with such personal tributes.

And to think that it was Keith who showed us the way..

Sean Marland