In an age where true-crime documentaries can often make scripted crime dramas feel old hat, Channel 4’s new psychological thriller Deadwater Fell feels fresh and exciting.
The four-part drama, which starts on Friday, follows what happens when tragedy strikes a family in a tight-knit community. It’s not so much a whodunnit, but more a physiological thriller about what goes on behind closed doors. Perhaps because writer Daisy Coulam has the same obsession with the true-crime documentaries that have gripped of late like The Staircase and Making a Murderer, the series feels contemporary and different to a lot of the crime drama we’ve seen in recent years.
The story revolves around two couples who are close friends. Local GP Tom (David Tennant) is happily married to school teacher Kate (Anna Madeley). The Kendrick family have three young daughters and are popular in their community. Their closest friends, fellow teacher Jess (Cush Jumbo) is married to policemen Steve (Matthew McNulty). Both couples live idyllic lives, Jess and Steve are struggling to conceive, with writer Daisy Coulum drawing from her personal experience of IVF to tell their story.
Coulam along with direction from Lynsey Miller set the scene perfectly introducing the key figures before the tragedy at the heart of the story kicks in.
Steve and Jess race to the scene when they realise the Kendrick family home is ablaze. It’s a terrifying sight as Steve heads into the house to drag Tom, Kate and the girls from the house. Despite his best efforts, it soon becomes clear that Tom is the only family member to survive the fire.
What follows is a clever twisty-turning mystery that explores how well we really know the people we’re close to. The faces we wear in public versus the people we are at home. The story puts the two couples lives in the spotlight and scrutinises who they really are. Why did Tom survive? Was the fire a terrible accident or the result of a plan? Was Kate the mastermind behind it or does Tom know more than he’s letting on?
The performances from the four central characters are all fantastic. Anna Madeley is masterful as Anna, a character who is struggling with having to be all things to all people. David Tennant, who also has an executive producer for the series, is equally powerful as Tom, a character you instantly fall for, but about whom there is a seed of doubt. Cush Jumbo, in her first major UK role, shines as Jess, a woman surrounded by children and desperate to have one of her own. Matthew McNulty gives a career-best performance as Steve, the world-weary PC who is out of depth when he’s forced to investigate his friends.
Tense, intriguing, raw and really well written, Deadwater Fell will hook you in and leaving wanting more. It’s the first must-see drama of the new year and I can’t wait to see what writer Daisy Coulam does next.
Deadwater Fell Starts at 9.00pm on Friday 10th January on Channel 4