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Broadchurch - Episode 1 review

Broadchurch

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IT’S early days but new ITV crime drama Broadchurch looks set to become riveting Monday night viewing.

Written by Chris Chibnall (of Torchwood fame) and featuring a who’s who of British acting talent, this ‘whodunnit’ may not be operating from particularly original territory (and some might even call it cliched at this point) but there’s already plenty of substance to match the style.

And with a cast led by David Tennant and Olivia Colman and including Jodie Whittaker, Andrew Buchan, Vicky McClure and Pauline Quirke (to name but a few), the acting is of a very high calibre.

Thus far, the story is relatively simple. The body of a young boy is discovered on a beach and quickly identified as suspicious.

Heading the investigation is a newly appointed detective inspector (Tennant) who has come to the picture-postcard coastal town of Broadchurch to ‘lie low’ following an as-yet unexplained traumatic past. He looks world weary but he’s highly motivated.

His ill-matched partner, on the other hand, is a woman (Colman), already resentful that he has taken her promotion, yet emotionally connected to the case by virtue of the fact she is close with the boy’s family and her son is best friend’s with the deceased.

The grieving family is headed by Jodie Whittaker’s mum and Andrew Buchan’s dad and there are already cracks starting to appear in their relationship, no doubt fuelled by grief, guilt and anger. Why, for instance, did neither parent think to check on their son on the night of his death to even realise he was missing until the next morning?

And then there’s the close-knit town-folk, thus far appearing only fleetingly to register dismay or be asked a question, and the local newspaper team, headed by an ambitious young reporter, recently snubbed by the national press, whose eager Tweeting has prompted a big city reporter (McClure) to head down to the coast in search of answers.

On the evidence of the show’s first hour (of eight), Chibnall’s script is going to place as much emphasis on the emotional impact of the murder as it is the procedural element. It also looks tightly wound, so as not to give too much away too soon.

The first hour succeeded in offering up enough questions to have us hooked without providing anyone with any clear motives. And it also invested us in the lives of the principal players, whether it was the lead detectives (superbly played by both Tennant and Colman), or the main family (Whittaker, especially, stood out as the mum torn apart by grief).

If there are minor niggles, they’re only slight at this stage. Some of the plot points do pander to convention (right down to the cop with a dodgy past), while some of James Strong’s direction is needlessly flashy/arty (there was an over-use of slow motion at times).

Strong also seems over-keen on juxtaposing the beauty of the sea-side locations with the horror of the murder at play, as if to underline the point that evil exists in even the most seemingly idyllic of places.

But thanks to a cast on top form and the slow-burning, thoughtful approach that successfully engaged the head and the heart Broadchurch already has us hooked enough to want to discover the secrets that lie within.

Broadchurch airs on ITV1 on Monday nights from 9pm.