An unsettling drama indifferent to the why’s.
Picturesque sleepy coastal towns shattered by death has become as common on tv as the police procedural in TV drama. Like Broadchurch and the simple but effective filming styles of The Killing we witness a crime and Its effects on the local community of Southcliffe.
The four-part drama penned by award-winning writer Tony Grisoni (Red Riding, The Unloved) and directed by Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene – winner of Sundance Film Festival Directing Award) is different in that it’s not one death but fifteen following a random killing spree by military obsessed loner and carer Stephen Norton (Sean Harris), aka The Commander. Stephen’s character and actions are laid to bare straight away as we open with him shooting an elderly lady while she tends to her garden not quite realising whats happened to her. Stephen is angry, ridiculed an dejected from life. However Southcliffe isn’t really his story. Perhaps frustratingly the why’s and where’s are not really addressed but instead set aside to tell the human story of the town.
This series is a hard watch; i struggled at times both because of its grim subject matter of effectively four episodes watching people grieve, not all of them likeable, but human nature can’t help but draw us into someone else’s pain when it feels so raw and unjust.
The casting of the drama is superbly filled with actors who are so adept at playing their characters they draw us in to believe the grief so strongly. Shirley Henderson and Eddie Marsan (Claire and Andrew Salter) especially are the most relatable and likeable of the grieving townsfolk after the death of their daughter Anna (Kaya Scodelario). Henderson’s desperate attempts to contact her daughter hits hard as we witness her slumped crying and begging for Anna to pick up the phone, fearing her daughter is one of the victims. And Marsan will no doubt bring a tear to anybody’s eye as he asks his lifeless daughter “how much does daddy love you”.
The misty shots of the marshes along with the tinny sounds of the metal of the boats in the wind give an air of unease. I found it difficult to relax or settle watching, not so much because of the content (although shocking) but the element of feeling not a lot happens even though plenty does, but in the silence and disquiet there’s a sense of foreboding which makes it difficult to adjust.
Joe Dempsie portrays returning squaddie Chris Cooper who begins a misguided friendship with Norton. Meanwhile Rory Kinnear stars as David Whitehead, a journalist returning to his childhood hometown to report on the Southcliffe murders and troubled by his own recollection of the past.
This drama is not a whodunit but a look at the human resolve and how we all cope differently in a similar set of circumstances. The series is well written and filmed. it could never be described as enjoyable in the classic sense; I nearly didn’t get passed the first episode. But if you like a emotionally character driven drama on the grim side this could be the one for you. You could say its an enigma for which you will have to make your own minds up on this one.
Watch the trailer below…