It would be easy to label BBC1’s new 2-parterThe 7.39 as a “romantic comedy”, but I think to do such a thing does a disservice to the performances of our leads and the fantastically witty, warm and realistic script from David Nicholls. The premise of two people meeting on a train and falling in love might seem like something TV and film has chucked at us before but the difference here is that our two leads are so incredibly relatable.
Sheridan Smith and David Morrissey are no strangers to great television and ‘Mrs 2013’ Olivia Colman puts an emotional performance. Sally (Sheridan Smith), and Carl (Morrissey) are two professionals whose lives revolve around a miserable commute on a packed train The 7.39. Regular commuters will spot the hallmarks of train travel that Nicholls has on display here. The fighting for a seat, the fact that no one ever looks at one another on a train let alone speaks to the person beside them. Carl and Sally don’t get off to the best of starts with one another and this is perhaps the only predictable element of this otherwise wonderfully enjoyable story. Once the pair do start talking the audience can just sit back and enjoy the journey with the characters. I always love my dramas to feel genuine and real. I know TV is there to offer a sense of escapism but I always find the best dramas are the ones where the people feel like those you’d know or meet on a train. The script has the perfect balance of humour and drama and never went too over the top or outside of reality.
The romance that blossoms between our two weary commuters is a slow burner and utterly believable. The interesting element is that both have perfectly adequate home lives. Carl is married to lovely Maggie (Colman) the couple have been together for years and have two adolescent kids. Sally is on the verge of a wedding to attentive fiancé Carl who she finds slightly suffocating. The two don’t need to find new love but it happens over time and adds an element of excitement to their adequate but otherwise mundane lives.
It would be easy to dislike the two leads what with them disrupting so many people’s lives, but Carl and Sally are so likeable it’s hard to feel anything other than sympathy for the pair. Some reviewers may focus too heavily on the fact that the story is about an older man being seduced by a younger woman but to be honest I didn’t think anything of their age difference because it felt so genuine and easy to believe. Olivia Colman doesn’t get the opportunity to deliver her powerhouse performance until tomorrow night’s episode when the two are ‘found out’. Even when the couple’s actions have been discovered the script stays strong and never steps into over the top or melodramatic territory, but that’s not to say that it plods it just remains nice and balanced.
In a world where we’ve become all too familiar with gore, violence and whodunnits, its nice to have a drama like The 7.39 to sit back and enjoy. The performances are solid and the script is strong. Roll on episode 2!
The 7.39 concludes tomorrow night at 9.00pm on BBC ONE.