One of Us

One of Us is a dark thriller in which, according to the promo blurb, ‘skeletons are unearthed’, ‘old wounds are reopened’ and ‘everyone has secrets’. Well aren’t they all, dear?

Written by Harry and Jack Williams, creators of 2014 hit The Missing, this certainly didn’t waste any time, showing Scottish childhood sweethearts Adam and Grace meeting, falling in love, getting married and then being brutally murdered – along with their unborn baby – all before the opening credits.

The twist here was that the killer then happened to crash his car into the field outside the remote Highland homes of his victims’ families, after failing to avoid a large plot device in the road. Within half an hour, he was lying dead in the barn with his throat cut which, on the basis of this script, I’d say was a pretty smart career move.

While it’s an intriguing premise for a whodunit – everyone not only has a motive, but the same motive – the Williams brothers have overreached themselves in their attempt to lumber every character with a bolted-on tortured backstory or guilty secret.

So Adam’s mum, played by Juliet Stevenson, is an alcoholic. Her daughter-in-law (Georgina Campbell) has been raped, driving a wedge between her and her husband (Joe Dempsie), who has anger management issues, while her other daughter is nursing a dying hospital patient who wants her to help with an assisted suicide. The family is engaged in a simmering feud with Grace’s parents (Julie Graham and Eric Cantona-lookalike John Lynch) owing to another Dark Secret in their shared past, while Julie and Eric’s teenage son is also guilty of some unknown misdemeanor. Even the detective in charge of the murder investigation (Laura Fraser) is being forced to sell drugs to pay for an operation for her sick daughter. It’s a critical mass of misery that makes EastEnders looks like the CBeebies Christmas Panto.

It’s part of a wearying trend – see also the equally overwrought From Darkness, River et al – of vaguely silly TV thrillers taking themselves terribly seriously. Maybe someone should tell them that, even in the corpse-strewn landscape of the current TV schedules, cracking a smile won’t kill us.

TV extra:

 

The Watchman

This excellent standalone drama starred Stephen Graham as a CCTV operator whose night shift spiralled into tragedy and violence when he attempted to take the law into his own hands. A tense, scary urban thriller, it opened an electronic window on an atomised society where gangs of drug dealers roam the streets and where, sometimes, turning a blind eye is the only way to stay alive. Writer/director Dave Nath is a documentary-maker by trade, which may explain why, in contrast to One of Us’s reheated clichés, this felt so vividly real.

 

The Circuit

The first collaboration between Dennis Kelly and Catastrophe’s Sharon Horgan since the brilliant, much-missed Pulling, this savage black comedy starred Adeel Akhtar and Eva Birthistle as a new-to-the-area couple marooned in the dinner party from hell.

Fellow guests included a bullet manufacturer, a manic depressive and an ex-member of Bananarama (played by the wonderful Nicola Walker) but it was warring hosts Victoria Hamilton and Tobias Menzies who really made the night go with a sickening thud, in what amounted to a credible attempt at an Abigail’s Party for our times.

Published in Waitrose Weekend, August 25, 2016

(c) Waitrose Weekend