Tuesday, August 06, 2013


Rory Kinnear as the journalist David Whitehead returning to SOUTHCLIFFE.

In the second episode of Channel 4's brooding, despairing, SOUTHCLIFFE, the narrative switches to the events just before and after the mass shooting in the sleepy British town. We see more of Rory Kinnear's buttoned up but traumatised journalist, David Whitehead, forced to return to his hometown as the body count increases, and learn a little about why he is so dismissive of the "nice small town" image.  And we see more of the killer Stephen Morton (Sean Harris) struggling to care for his ailing mother.  But the real focus of the episode are two of the families that are victims of the shooting. The first is depicted as a typical suburban loving young family, but almost predictably we learn that the father is cheating on his wife.  The second is the family of the social worker (Shirley Henderson) caring for Stephen's mum. They seem genuinely caring, worried for their teenage daughter (Kaya Scodelario) who wants to go travelling, and trying IVF for another baby. 

As in the first episode, Sean Durkin's direction is carefully paced and elliptically edited. The tone is grey and dark green - oppressive and depressing.  Rory Kinnear is superb as the stiff upper-lip journalist, stating the horrible with a matter of fact air and a repressed anger.  He's the only character where I am genuinely interested in seeing where he goes.  The first family is a cliché, but there's one single scene that redeems the plotline - when the lads are drunk, singing to Oasis in a pub, and the father starts to break down.  It's for visual images like this that we watch high class TV. The second family is better acted though - Eddie Marsan and Shirley Henderson always masterful and utterly sympathetic.   The way in which writer Tony Grisoni shows each member of that family coming to an understanding of what is happening - the sound design - the panicked voicemails - is the second piece of exceptional film-making in this otherwise rather banal episode. 

SOUTHCLIFFE EPISODE 2: LIGHT FALLS was originally broadcast in the UK on August 5th.

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