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The 7.39 - First episode review

The 7.39

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

DAVID Nicholls’ commuter-affair The 7.39 may have travelled along a pretty well-worn track but buoyed by two great central performances and some astute observations it proved to be as much of a guilty pleasure as the relationship it depicts.

David Morrissey and Sheridan Smith played the commuters at the centre of the story – the former, a married father-of-two named Carl who had grown frustrated with life and begun to ponder whether he had achieved all that it had to offer; the latter, Sally, a divorcee turned fiancee pondering whether she, too, was making do with the best that life had to offer.

The two met acrimoniously, squabbling over a highly prized commuter seat, but they quickly warmed to each other, so much so that by the end of the first hour they were shacked up in a hotel together ready to take their relationship to the next level. Guilt and recrimination is certain to follow.

Morrissey and Smith were excellent at capturing both the excitement and the guilt of their ‘brief encounters’, emerging as likeably flawed characters whose digressions were conveyed without ever feeling false. Neither person was looking for what happened… things just happened, initially.

But as each took one step closer to the inevitable affair, it was Smith’s Sally who showed herself to be the more predatory of the two, encouraging Carl to go for it whenever he threatened to falter and testing his resolve on at least two occasions. She was a compelling presence… sexy, charismatic, forceful and yet capable of projecting her own frustration and vulnerability during more intimate moments.

Morrissey, meanwhile, wore the look of a man worn down by the toils of commuting, who had hit a mid-life crisis, and who lived for the few brief moments afforded to him to and from work each day – the spark his life had been missing. In his scenes with Smith, you could see the years visibly rolling back, even if the vagaries of comfort living had taken their toll on his physique. He displayed just the right mix of bravado and humility… confidence and – that word again – guilt.

As good as the leading two were, however, The 7.39 wasn’t without fault. The storytelling itself hasn’t, up to this point, done anything to really surprise, even being content to resort to the occasional cliche, as evidenced by Carl catching a glimpse of Sally in her underwear as she was changing in the bathroom of their shared hotel room.

And, thus far, the other halves (or the wronged ones) have only really been given a token presence, especially Sean Maguire’s Ryan, who seems too easy to cheat upon. Olivia Colman’s Maggie has fared a little better but you can pretty much guess that both will only really be called upon to demonstrate their acting chops once the affair has been revealed. A little more complexity would perhaps have been better in prompting the question that drives every dangerous liaison – namely, ‘why would you risk everything’? In Sally’s case, especially, the answer is far too obvious.

And one other minor niggle comes from the depiction of the commute itself. The trains aren’t nearly crowded enough, the 7.39 of the title is a little too on-time, and the extras surrounding Morrissey and Smith during one delay didn’t look nearly pissed off enough!

But quibbles aside, The 7.39 is a generally engaging affair that has succeeded in making you care about what happens next.