Damien Love’s pick of the week, plus seven-day listings
Damien Love’s pick of the week
DS David “Calamity” Budd, the unlucky Frank Spencer of the bodyguard business, has packed up his bruises, bundled his bruised family into his wee car, and trundled them all off into the bruised sunset for the bruised time being. He may return, on rollerskates, hanging off the back of a bus, with a timebomb padlocked to his brain, and a budding romance with the entire Newsnight presenting team. But for now, how is the BBC to follow such a Sunday night sensation?
Adapted from Australian-born, Glasgow-based writer Helen Fitzgerald’s 2013 novel, The Cry doesn’t quite go for the traditional, gun-toting thriller moves and meathook cliffhangers Jed Mercurio’s serial traded in, and might not quite pick up the same kind of audience numbers. But this four-part
drama is an intriguing, complex, increasingly gripping crime piece, and quietly deals in subject matters that, while not so screamingly headline worthy, are more controversial, and more intimately familiar to many.
Despite the domestic scale of the story, the series also pulls out a few moments that, in their own way, rival some of Bodyguard’s heartstopping set pieces for producing shrill, shreddednerves tension.
But where Bodyguard went in for suicide vests, The Cry, to begin with, simply goes for, well, a cry: the unending cry of a screaming newborn baby.
Such is the ceaseless, distressing, almost visceral soundtrack to a key scene in tonight’s opening episode, drawn out to just beyond the point you think you can’t stand it any more. It’s in this harrowed psychological place – floating out just beyond the edge of endurance – that we meet the protagonist, Joanna, played by Jenna Coleman in a carefully judged performance that feels simultaneously close and raw, and yet distant and glassily unreadable.
The situation, roughly, is this. Joanna, a young teacher, has recently had a child with her newish partner, Alastair, an Australian working in Scotland as an oilslick smooth government spin-doctor. (Playing the part, Ewen Leslie is poised to take over from Dr Foster’s Bertie Carvel as the most despised husband on TV.)
Their baby, Noah, is three-months old, and for Joanna those months have been a battered eternity.
Staying at home while Alastair heads out to be important at his job, she battles daily, nightly exhaustion, uncertainty, loneliness, despair and guilt, unable to crack the magic secret of bonding with her baby, or solve the impossible puzzle of how to make his eternal, demanding, deafening, draining, unsatisfiable crying stop.
How – or if – she makes it stop becomes the mystery at the heart of the story. From the beginning we know something bad has happened, but not exactly what.
Adapted for the screen by writer Jacqueline Perske, the series splinters constantly between different time frames, generating a heavily ominous atmosphere. There come fractured flashes back to the early stages of Joanna and Alastair’s relationship (first meeting, first dates, the first time she realised he was lying), and then forward, offering glimpses of a court case, Joanna on trial, a figure of public speculation and hate.
The main section, however, follows the couple on a trip to Australia. Alastair is headed down there to try and win custody of his teenage daughter from his ex-wife, Alexandra (Asher Keddie).
This entails a flight from Glasgow to Melbourne that becomes a claustrophobic nightmare for Joanna as, while Alistair dozes blissfully, Noah incessantly screams his lungs out, and the rest of the sleepless passengers fix their resentment on her. It’s hugely uncomfortable watching. You’ll want to watch more.
Joanna, played by Jenna Coleman