Published on August 16th, 2013 | by Craig Silliphant0
In the last few years, TV mysteries have created a trend of smartly delving into the emotional side of things, as opposed to just relying on the ‘whodunnit’ stories. While a show like The Killing (The American version) stumbled in its execution and alienated a lot of its audience, it did do a lot right in terms of showing the fallout that the murder of teenager Rosie Larsen had on her parents and siblings.
Broadchurch is a British take on the emotional mystery, starring former Doctor Who David Tennant and Olivia Colman from (one of my all-time favourite comedies) Peep Show as well as the movie Hot Fuzz. It takes place in the coastal town of Broadchurch, with the discovery of the body of 11-year old Danny Latimer on the beach. It’s a tight-knit town, where everyone knows everyone, and Colman’s homicide detective may be too close to the town to be objective. She’s offset by Tennant’s character; he has ended up in Broadchurch after a secretive disgrace, where he’s the opposite of Colman. He doesn’t trust a soul in this town, with a child-murderer hiding among the population.
The actors do well, though Tennant isn’t always as gruff as he wants to be (he’s a pretty charming man). Standing out is Jodie Whittaker as Danny’s mum (that’s how they say ‘mom’ in the UK) Beth Latimer, whose family is crumbling around her. She plays a woman falling apart without overdoing it. Well done. You can also see her in one of the better episodes of The Black Mirror, a Twilight Zone meets technology sort of show.
The visual identity of Broadchurch is especially stunning, with some beautiful cinematography. Unlike recent shows like The Killing that build atmosphere by rolling around in the gloom, Broadchurch is mostly a sunny place. This is a sundrenched beach town (well, as sundrenched as Britain can get) and the lightness of it all adds to the shiny surface of the town, when underneath, some of its denizens scurry from the light like bugs under a rock. It makes the show feel that much more unique.
One of my minor problems with Broadchurch, other than a scene or two that rang as farfetched, were all the secrets. Of course, a mystery is built on secrets, but after awhile, the townspeople’s hidden pasts pile up on the story in an unintentionally comic manner. Is there anyone who lives in Broadchurch that hasn’t changed their name to run from their pasts?
I won’t give anything away, but I’ll also say that it was a pretty satisfying ending. I actually called it beforehand, but I still think it was very strongly constructed. I think I just happened to notice a clue or two that I might normally have glossed over. All in all, Broadchurch is an excellent mystery, and an even better drama.