Howard Mollison (Michael Gambon, Harry Potter's Dumbledore) and his snide wife, Shirley (Julia McKenzie, Agatha Christie's Miss Marple), are at the forefront of the battle for the hotel and spa. The Mollisons own a fine foods shop in Pagford and see themselves as the upper crust of the town. They are brown-nosing the Sweetlove family, the true upper crust, who really see them as more of a nuisance and definitely not in their class. Howard browbeats his son, Miles (Rufus Jones), who was also Barry's law partner, into running for the council seat - despite the fact that he doesn't want to do it - and his wife, Samantha (Keeley Hawes, Murdoch Mysteries: The Movies and the voice of Lara Croft) forbids it. Sam owns a racy lingerie store in town and she and Miles are having marital problems, spurred on by mother-in-law Shirley, who thinks Miles outclasses Sam.
Simon Price (Richard Glover) is Barry's half-brother, but is nothing like him. He is shady, cruel and horribly abusive towards his wife and two sons. Andrew (Joe Hurst) AKA "Arf", his eldest, is devastated by the loss of Barry, who was more of a father to him than Simon. With Barry's death, Simon decides to run for his seat, hoping to capitalize on sympathy.
Lastly, Colin Wall (Simon McBurney), who works at the local school is goaded into running despite the pleadings of his wife, Tess (Monica Dolan), who is the school's therapist. Naturally, she is on the side of keeping the Sweetlove House going as she sees its benefits, especially for some of the kids she counsels, but she doesn't really want Colin to run. Colin is strongly backed by Parminder Jawanda (Lolita Chakrabarti), who runs a methadone clinic at Sweetlove House, while her handsome husband, Vikram (Silas Carson), a jogging enthusiast and selfish plastic surgeon, would probably prefer a spa.
And then there are the children of Pagford and The Fields. At the center of it all is a teenager named Krystal Weedon (Abigail Lawrie). At only 16, she is quite sexually promiscuous, but is also raising her 5-year-old brother Robbie because her mother Terri (Keeley Forsyth) is a drug addict. Barry was helping the Weedons out a great deal before his death and it is this poor family that is touched the most by his passing. Krystal is involved with Stuart "Fats" Wall (Brian Vernel), who couldn't care less about his parent's socially conscious agenda and only wants to get laid. Arf is in love with Gaia Bawden (Simona Brown), an enigmatic beauty newly arrived from London, whose mother Kay (Michele Austin) happens to be the Weedon's social worker and a really good-hearted woman. Then there are the self-absorbed daughters of Miles and Sam Mollison, who aren't afraid of using their grandmother Shirley against their mom to get what they want. Finally, the Jawanda's daughter Suhkvinder (Ria Choony) is largely ignored by her busy parents and spends her days being bullied by her schoolmates and losing herself in the music on her headphones.
Amidst all of the chaos with the election, someone begins posting on the internet under the moniker of "The Ghost of Barry Fairbrother" and this poster seems to know a great deal about those who are running and loves airing their dirty laundry. These posts cause one person to drop out of the race and the others and their families to be pretty humiliated over the course of the mini-series, but not undeservedly. Who could it be?
Every action has a reaction and in the case of the Pagford townsfolk, some lead to tragedy and some to comedy... and some a bit of both. If everyone would just take a step back and listen to each other, especially their children, and quit acting for their own selfish means, things would probably be a bit nicer in Pagford, but that is not to be. In the end, poor Mary Fairbrother (Emily Bevan) who barely has time to grieve for her husband before the battle for the council seat begins, says it best to potential buyers as she is trying to sell her flat and leave this warzone of a village - "You look like Pagford people to me."
The Casual Vacancy also comes with three special features: an overview of the mini-series, a featurette of the adaptation from book to screen, and finally a featurette on the casting the film, with such a huge cast of main characters. All were quite interesting to watch, but don't expect an appearance from J.K. Rowling herself.
Overall, The Casual Vacancy is an excellent piece with a stellar cast. It is not for everyone, but it is a film that will really make you think and may haunt you long after you finish it.