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Monday, 1 October 2018

Review: The Cry divides the site.

Sunday saw the start of a brand new four-part drama on BBC One entitled The Cry. It's a show that has divided viewers on social media, and indeed on this very site. Below are the thoughts of reviewer Michael Lee and I (Luke) will add my thoughts below.

Micheal's Opinion
Following Bodyguard, the biggest British drama in over a decade was never going to be an easy task, least of all because viewers want more of that adrenaline fuelled, heightened reality thrill. The Cry, based on Helen Fitzgerald's 2013 novel, is an altogether different beast. It follows Joanna (Jenna Coleman) struggling with postnatal depression after the birth of her baby boy Noah. It's a slow-moving, intense watch that makes Jenna travel more in time than she ever did in a single episode of Doctor Who.



Her husband Alistair (Ewen Leslie)  is a spin doctor, a man with his head in the clouds which is motivated by work and mostly blinkered to Joanna's struggles. He literally has a face mask on and earbuds in as she has a meltdown at judgemental strangers on the plane. The reason they're flying to Australia is because Alistair's ex Alexandra (Asher Keddie) has taken his daughter there.

In keeping with the title, there is a hell of a lot of crying going on which isn't exactly the most relaxing noise for a Sunday night but it's an important soundtrack for Joanna's turmoil. Another area where viewers may struggle is the way the non-linear nature the story is presented. It is in line with the book and it does make sense to do it this way otherwise the first half an hour or so would just be "girl meets boy, girl has child with boy". All very meh. Juxtaposing the fresh new dawn of the relationship with their future trauma makes things more interesting because you question further what exactly is happening during the good times. While the time shifts work because they are very clear it's unfortunate no scenes settled for long enough. It's all unremittingly bleak before the tragedy even happens. There are no tonal shifts. Even in those early days, there's zero in the way of light relief even when Alistair first asks Joanna out or when she has a night on the tiles. Dialogue isn't The Cry's strong point, uncomfortable tension is what's to the fore here. It feels claustrophobic. When Joanna isn't being confronted by a wailing baby she's facing a psychologist or a judge. There's no escape for her.


A show that'll undoubtedly divide opinion will stand or fall on the central performance and thankfully Jenna Coleman lifts an average opener to something almost special. There's clearly something in the "two sides of Joanna" speech and through the hour she elicits sympathy and suspicion, frailty and arrogance. Coleman produces a powerhouse performance with nuanced subtlety and not grabbing the camera while wearing a "Give me a BAFTA" t-shirt. Seeing her dissociate when calling out for her just kidnapped child was surreal and very effective. While she gains mostly sympathy there's a sense she's not to be fully trusted.

We don't even know for sure why Joanna is in court yet and is all as it first seems with the abduction? Alistair is expressing some strange behaviour and there's plenty of suspicious activity between the couple without being too obvious. There's also Alexandra and Alistair's mum Elizabeth (Stella Gonet) in the shady picture. The Cry may have started slowly but there's more than enough intrigue to warrant giving it more time. It's likely that time won't be in any order though.


Luke's Opinion


Whilst I wholeheartedly that Jenna Colman is giving a powerhouse performance as many versions of her character I found the first episode an incredibly frustrating watch. I'm not one to shy away from challenging drama, but the fractured nature of this opener and the continual time jumps irritating rather than engaging. Maybe it's because they are being incredibly loyal to the book, but when a show is clearly about a woman struggling with motherhood we don't need a scene halfway through that shows her giving birth! I can appreciate the device is used to keep the audience on their toes, but the action moved about so swiftly and so frequently that I couldn't settle enough to engage with any incarnation of the story. I can praise the scene on the flight where Joanna is literally left holding the baby as her husband sleeps beside her and other passengers pass comment I was so emotionally switched off by this point I found it hard to fully empathise.

More often than not I bemoan shows that get to the nub of the story too quickly. ITV's current drama Strangers (which I loathed) about a woman killed and her husband finding out she lived a double life has her death within the first few moments. This allows you no time to care about the person you are witnessing meet their end. The Cry had almost the opposite problem. I knew it was about a child abduction and I felt it took far too long to get to the scene where they discover the baby has been taken from their car. Although we were never in the same place for long, I found this first hour very long. I should say I don't want an adrenaline rush every scene, but the pacing seemed all over the place, with the focus often on things I'm fairly confident didn't matter to the plot. Them listening to the radio as it advised them to leave the area due to brushfires or the scene where we saw her meet up with her friend before going over to Alistair's for the first time. The scene of her screaming in agony during baby Noah's birth was also one I'm fairly confident we didn't need to see and it left me feeling irritated.

There are only four episodes in the series and I shall give the second one a shot. In the hopes the obsession with time-hopping will slow now that the baby has gone missing, and because I found Jenna Colman engaging. If it continues to mess me about, I shan't have any qualms in stopping at the midway point of the series.

Who Do you agree with?? Let us know below..

The Cry Continues Sunday at 9.00pm on BBC One.

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