I don’t usually review TV shows, though I used to write about TV and movies quite a bit. Television more so probably as I used to be quite a TV addict. It comes and goes now. Box sets and Netflix is my catnip as I’ve always been prone to watch stuff in a binge and then not turn the television on for a few weeks.
So after some positive (well, glowing) local reviews I decided to tune into The Cry – a 4-part BBC production, showing here in Australia on ABC TV. Naturally I didn’t watch it live, rather watched it online via iView over a couple of days after the first episode aired.
Of course I write this as someone who’s not read the novel on which it’s based, by Helen FitzGerald. Having done some post-viewing research (googling) however, I understand the plot is pretty consistent but the structure deviates a little from the book.The Cry
by BBC One, ABC TV
on February 2018
Source: ABC TV
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
When a baby goes missing on a lonely roadside in Australia, it sets off a police investigation that will become a media sensation and dinner-table talk across the world.
Lies, rumours and guilt snowball, causing the parents, Joanna and Alistair, to slowly turn against each other.
Finally Joanna starts thinking the unthinkable: could the truth be even more terrible than she suspected? And what will it take to make things right?
The Cry offers viewers a strong cast.
It was kinda weird for me as I’ve been binge-watching Doctor Who, so just watched Jenna Coleman in three seasons as Clara – a character (companion) who seemingly divided viewers. She seems to have been as loved as she was hated. I’ve not watched her in Victoria, but know it’s a popular show so suspect (here) she’ll mostly be recognised from that.
I of course knew Asher Keddie (as Alexandra), who’s done some great work on Oz TV and Stella Gonet as I LOVED as Beatrice in The House of Elliot back in the 1990s and had a girl crush on Bea’s sister, Evie. Well, in that I wanted to BE her. I even had my hair cut like Evie’s for a few years (and dyed brown!).
I hadn’t seen Ewen Leslie (Alistair) in anything but know Safe Harbour and Top of the Lake were both really well received.
Another recognisable face for Aussie viewers is of course Alex Dimitriades playing a cop (and former friend of Alistair’s) who’s gone on from Heartbreak High to great shows like Seven Types of Ambiguity, The Principal, Secret City, The Slap and Tidelands. (I’ve not seen the latter two.)
And it has to be said, the acting in the show was great. Fantastic. Keddie was strong as the jilted wife and raised our suspicions through her (understandably) bitter behaviour; Leslie was good as the calm and seemingly controlled political adviser Alistair – an Aussie working in Scotland. And Coleman, was surprisingly subtle as Joanna – school teacher (AGAIN… though primary school, not secondary school as per Dr Who!) and new mother.
We didn’t see much of Gonet (who played Elizabeth, Alistair’s mother) and I would have liked more as I thought her role and acting was nuanced and either the book or the show (ie. the plot) could have benefitted from more input from additional protagonists. I realise the whole narrative and story arc is centred around Joanna and Alistair and how they cope with what happens/ed to baby Noah, but it occasionally felt a little suffocating or constricted. More from Keddie (Alexandra) as an outsider-looking-in would have also been welcomed.
Of interest, in particular, was how Alexandra talked about her ex-husband and his penchant for manipulating others. The Alistair we mostly see here felt stoic rather than anything else. Even his decision to seek financial benefit via their tragedy – though distasteful – didn’t make me hate him. I did wonder why more wasn’t made of the fact that he cheated on his wife with Joanna in his marital bed, but I wondered if it was downplayed so we didn’t blame Joanna or prejudice us against her and the role she played in his marriage breakdown; given what was to come.
Of course, as I said, this is very much about the disintegrating relationship between Joanna and Alistair and the way each reacts to the tragedy, and both actors do a great job. They underplay it, rather than overplay it and that subtlety works really well. There’s initially shock and numbness, as well as a sense of self-preservation when fingers are pointed. Once the couple returns to Scotland we’re mostly watching from Joanna’s point of view, and her sense of grief and guilt is palpable. Coleman (and her character) come across as cold, but there are moments of anger and devastation amidst the detachment.
I understand the book pretty much starts at the end – so is circular in its storytelling and readers get advance notice of where things end up. The tv show is of course a slow burn (too slow some might say) so you get a bit of a reveal at the end of the second episode, a heap of backstory in the third, and another twist in the fourth.
I read some reviews on the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and it hasn’t fared as well as Australian mainstream media’s reporting, though doesn’t have many reviews so its scoring is a bit skewed. There, the first couple of episodes rated lower than the last few with most commentators agreeing it picks up as it progresses.
The most common complaint there though is that it jumps about too much in time. Which indeed it does. However, I think (mostly) it’s easy to work out the timelines. It does take a while though.
(However, and as a complete aside, we were regularly shown footage of Joanna stumbling about something that looked like a fire and I wasn’t sure where this fit in – unless of course a car catches aflame. But no more on that, cos… #spoilers.)
The reviews I read of the book also mention a pivotal point involving Australian / UK Customs which I can’t recall from the TV show, though I may have been mistaken. If it wasn’t included… it’s not a big issue but would have helped… (and I can’t say more).
I loved the look of the show and the cinematography and understand it was filmed in Australia and Glasgow. Australia’s stunning eastern coastline gets a starring role as do the quintessential beachside towns scattered along the vast terrain.
We kinda know where the show’s headed via a surprise dropped upon us at the end of episode three, but I think the very final scene (in episode four) actually surprised many and was very well received. (Meanwhile I was still waiting for the fire… #dontask)
The book, by Helen FitzGerald was first released in Australia in 2013 and available via Allen & Unwin.
I really enjoyed this and am tempted to read the book to see if:
- Alastair is any different in the book (more as described by his ex-wife)
- The scene with customs, which I don’t think featured in the show
- There’s more immediately ‘after’ the accident, if that’s the scene often replayed that didn’t seem to fit anywhere – Joanna’s crawling around the ground (seemingly in the aftermath of a fire)? I did wonder if she burned the house down… and those who’ve watched it will know what I mean. (I think!)
(PS. If you’ve not seen the show or read the book you might want to skip any comments as there may be spoilers.)