Brain Dump: The Americans, Coco, The Split

A few brief comments on television and movies coming at you in this edition of a brain dump. I’ll talk about The Americans, Coco, and The Split. Continue reading “Brain Dump: The Americans, Coco, The Split”

River: A British Mystery Series with Nicola Walker

River originated on BBC One. Immediately after the last episode aired in Britain, it was imported to America on Netflix as a Netflix Original. It stars Stellan Skarsgård as John River, a cop trying to solve the murder of his former partner Stevie Stevenson. Nicola Walker plays the dead partner and appears to River frequently as he tries to understand the who and why in her case.

The series was beautifully written by Abi Morgan. Minor spoilers ahead.

NIcola Walker in River
River frequently talks with Stevie while in his car. She goads him on constantly.

Stevie isn’t the only person who appears to River. He frequently sees dead people. Many of his best clues and leads come from these otherworldly conversations. On the other hand, one of his darkest demons is a dead serial killer played with delicious torment by Eddie Marsan.

His new partner Ira King (Adeel Akhtar) tries to cover for River’s strange behavior as best he can and gradually learns to respect River’s brilliance as an investigator. He even comes to understand and respect River’s madness.

Nicola Walker, Stellan Skarsgård and Georgina Rich in River
Nicola Walker, Stellan Skarsgård and Georgina Rich in River. Rich plays River’s shrink Rosa.

River is forced to attend sessions with the police shrink, Rosa Fallows (Georgina Rich). After silent and aborted sessions, he decides to trust her. She then begins the painful work of trying to draw him out.

Lesley Manville plays River’s immediate superior Chrissie Read. River has a long and significant history with Chrissie and her family.

Stellan Skarsgård in River
River is a depressed, unbalanced man with numerous personal demons. The mood is enhanced by the blue tone you see in this image.

The series is dark and moody. Each episode reveals new secrets about River and about Stevie. Learning the truth about her upsets River almost as much as her murder. Twists and surprises enter into every episode as River pieces his case together and the web of people involved grows.

Skarsgård’s performance as the dark and troubled cop is absolute perfection. His stillness, his visions, his fake good nature when he pretends to be normal, his fears and his memories play brilliantly.

She’s not the real Stevie; she’s River’s Stevie.Nicola Walker, too, is fantastic as the slowly revealed Stevie. It’s interesting that she’s playing Stevie as manifested by River. She’s not the real Stevie; she’s River’s Stevie. She’s the light to his dark. She’s the song, the laugh, the reminder to behave like a normal person, to love like a normal person. Walker’s expressive face and her penetrating blue eyes are both used to excellent effect here.

River’s realization that Stevie had a secret purpose is masterfully uncovered. He won’t stop until he unravels the mystery of Stevie’s death. Even when he sees the lives of the people unraveling around him, people he cares about – people Stevie cared about, he keeps looking for the truth.

When River finally faces his truth about Stevie and his grief over losing her we see a beautiful and joyful scene. Not the mournful sobbing of a broken man, but a celebration of wonder and love. It was a lovely finale.

I appreciated the surprises as each episode twists and turns through more and more of the story. I appreciated the parallels between River’s life and Stevie’s life. Part of the storyline deals with immigration. We are living through a world-wise crisis over immigrants and refugees right now, making the plot highly relevant.

If you are a fan of noir mysteries with devilish plot twists I think you’ll enjoy the 6 episodes of River.

Watch the trailer for River.

Nicola Walker in Two British Dramas Airing Now

There’s a great article in The Daily Mail titled “Why the stars of our best TV dramas are suddenly all middle-aged women: At long last, this is grown-up television” that talks about many of my favorite actresses and shows – including Nicola Walker.

Nicola Walker is my particular topic today. Walker is currently starring in two British dramas showing in the UK. She plays a police officer in both. One is River from BBC One, which will be on Netflix internationally starting November 18. The other is Unforgotten. It’s currently on iTV. I don’t know if it will be brought across the pond. If I hear anything, I’ll let you know.

River

Nicola Walker

Let’s start with River. The 6 part series stars Stellan Skarsgård and Nicola Walker. Skarsgård is a melancholy, grieving cop named River. Walker is his former partner DS Jackie “Stevie” Stevenson. Former partner (spoiler alert) in this case meaning Stevie is dead and gone. She’s gone for everyone but River, who sees her and other characters he’s investigating. River interacts with these “manifestations” as if they were there.

Real life Stevie was sassy and saucy and bright. River carries on conversations with her, listens to her sing, but seems insane to those around him. Most people would consider him insane. The only reason he’s still with the police is his 80% rate of closing crimes.

River was written by Abi Morgan.

Here’s the trailer.

Unforgotten

In Unforgotten, Walker is the lead character, a compassionate police officer who lives with her father. She’s investigating a decades old crime in which the bones of a young man are found under a demolished house. Sanjeev Bhaskar is her partner. Chris Lang is the creator of this 6 part drama.

NIcola Walker and Sanjeev Bhaskar

As DCI Cassie Stuart, Walker plays a character who is quiet and thoughtful. She runs her department with calm, rewarding good work with generous praise and sending officers to investigate with a minimum of fuss. We see her relationship with her father develop through the episodes, especially when her father reveals some long hidden secrets about her mother.

The 4 main suspects in the crime range through all aspects of British society. This series has a big cast with many faces you will probably recognize including Gemma Jones and Tom Courtenay.

Here’s the preview for Unforgotten.

Other than the fact that Nicola Walker does brilliant work in both series, the two stories have little in common. Well, she’s a cop in both series. I heartily recommend you watch them both if you get a chance.

Many people know Nicola Walker from her role as Ruth in MI5. She’s also been in recent favorites including Scott & Bailey and Last Tango in Halifax.

Watch This: New Preview for Suffragette

Suffragette will premier in the U.S. in late October. It’s premiering in early October in the U.K. at the London Film Festival. There’s a new preview available.

The film deals with the battle for women’s right to vote in late 19th and early 20th Century in England.  Suffragette stars Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep. Mulligan plays Maud, a wife and working mother who joins a group fighting to secure the right to vote for women. The group’s now-famous leader Emmeline Pankhurst is played by Streep. Continue reading “Watch This: New Preview for Suffragette”

Watch This: Trailer for Suffragette

Suffragette boasts a dream cast including Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Ben Whishaw, Brendan Gleeson and Romola Garai in a story about the early British suffrage movement. Meryl Streep plays the leader of the Suffragettes Emmeline Pankhurst. Continue reading “Watch This: Trailer for Suffragette”