CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Has this haunted mum found her missing son after nine long years?
The Mallorca Files
One of the oddest and most unsettling effects of bereavement is the way that, on occasion, you’ll think you see the dead friend or relative in every crowd.
I don’t mean ghostly apparitions. It’s just an illusion, something about a stranger’s hair or coat, or the way they walk, that makes you imagine for an instant that you’re looking at someone who cannot possibly be there.
The Drowning (C5) takes that misconception and spins a thriller from it.
Jill Halfpenny plays Jodie, a woman still half-crazed with grief after the disappearance of her four-year-old son Tom on a family picnic nine years ago.
The coroner ruled that Tom must have drowned while playing with a toy boat, though his body was never found. Amid the heartbreak and recriminations, Jodie’s marriage ended and she broke all contact with her family, believing that they blamed her.
Then, as she drives to a business meeting, she glimpses a teenager who reminds her inexorably of her lost child.
The Drowning (C5) stars Jill Halfpenny (right) as Jodie, a woman still half-crazed with grief after the disappearance of her four-year-old son Tom on a family picnic nine years ago
He has the same curls, the same gait. And he’s carrying a guitar: Jodie and her ex are both musicians. He must be the same boy!
At first, it seems obvious to us that Jodie is a woman going out of her mind with loneliness, self-delusion and longing. She ditches the meeting — even though her business is on the brink of bankruptcy — and sets about stalking this poor boy day and night. She follows him on the bus, goes to his home, confronts his father, and even gets a job as a teaching assistant at his school.
Halfpenny, who has starred in both Coronation Street and EastEnders, is ideal for the role. She has a haunted, yearning gaze that says more than words ever could — much needed, because the more Jodie tries to explain herself, the madder she seems.
What hooks us is the nagging chance that Jodie might be right. The boy, whose name is Dan (Cody Molko), has a livid scar under his left eye, just like the one little Tom had. And she stirs some distant memory in him: ‘Where do I know you from?’ he wonders.
Well, Dan, she’s the scary woman who has been staring at you on public transport and taking photos of your house. That’s probably where you’ve seen her before.
It’s all done on the lowest budget, with sets in houses that look like they were borrowed for a weekend’s filming while the owners were away.
But the cast is strong, including Jonas Armstrong as Jodie’s brother and Deborah Findlay as her acid-tongued mother.
The first episode ended on a cracking cliffhanger, as Jodie breezed into Dan’s house and found herself on the wrong side of a locked door. Worth tuning in for the second instalment.
Lovers of lightweight crime mystery will be tuning in all week to the new series of The Mallorca Files (BBC1), starring Elen Rhys and Julian Looman
Lovers of lightweight crime mystery will be tuning in all week to the new series of The Mallorca Files (BBC1), starring Elen Rhys and Julian Looman as a couple of mismatched detectives who can’t bear to admit they fancy each other rotten.
It’s a Mediterranean Death In Paradise. If you know the island, you’ll need no encouragement to watch.
Every scene is set against the ravishing backdrop of harbour, beaches, mountains or elegant, ancient streets. Each murder is cunningly plotted, with twists that poke affectionate fun at the genre.
In the opening tale, a philandering opera singer was stabbed to death through the voice box, and the list of suspects quite literally filled a theatre.
Like the best of the Beeb’s other afternoon crime dramas, including Father Brown and Shakespeare & Hathaway: Private Investigators, it is better than most primetime shows.
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