2 April 2014 | bob the moo
Showed potential in some aspects but mostly overplays the mystery with melodrama
Aisling Hunter is out walking on the road at night when a car accident leaves her bloodied and badly hurt by the side of the road. This is the end of her story and from here we jump back 15 hours to find Aisling blackmailing popular girl Geri, shunning former best friend Laura and chatting with a mysterious chatroom user "blue-eyed-boy" about the whereabouts of her long vanished mother. All of this occurring against the background of a school community still struggling to recover in the wake of a fire where the mother of a pupil (Danny) was killed with no reason found for the fire or for his mother being there in the first place.
On the poster for this BBC3 pilot there is the subtitle "a mystery" and indeed it plays into this side of it very heavily. Although I have reservations, I generally did like this despite myself. The basic building blocks of mystery offer the chance for a good story and intrigue – not quite Twin Peaks perhaps, but all the talk of secrets and twisted relationships with different faces and realities all seemed like it could have gone somewhere. Sadly it wasn't really delivered here. Part of this is that it is a pilot so it cannot give you everything or it would have nowhere to go – but the problem is that it doesn't give you much closure and indeed you'll end this film with more questions than answers.
Another weakness, which may contribute to it not being picked up in the end, was that it wasn't dark so much as really trying to be dark, if you see the difference. So instead of building this dark atmosphere and tone with smaller touches, this film instead pushed things to make the most impact as quickly as possible because, although the content suggests "slow burn", the delivery is all about getting that second bite at the cherry with a green-lit pilot. As a result it plays quite melodramatic instead, so the ideas are a bit overblown, the devices are overblown, the characters are a bit overblown and so on. It is a shame because the world of the school with its changing loyalties could have been so much better and while aspects drew me in, I did find the melodrama to push me away.
The performances match what they are given, so they are mostly good but have to play with the material given to them. Day is good in the lead but perhaps a bit of a device (literally given the opening of the film) and doesn't make as much of an impact as the others. Lunghi does well to go from strong to less strong and I thought her "bitch" had potential. Loftus has to play the "nice but dull" friend but unfortunately cannot find anything in there. Anderson is a bit stroppy but a good presence (although with Broadchurch and Game of Thrones for him now, I doubt he thinks back on this pilot too much). Crichlow doesn't have much to do here (although I guess would have in the bigger plot), likewise Abe only has a few scenes although, like Lunghi had a few notes to play, I liked that she had to play sassy but also show more behind that front – she did this well.
Overall this is a mystery but it is one we'll never see because it didn't get picked up. The potential was there for some decent "Twin Peaks-lite" darkness and at times it shows this but mostly it overplays it with too many flourishes and too much melodrama and bluntness taking away from the atmosphere and making it feel like it is stomping when it should have crept.