ITV’s latest delivery of British drama sees the sleepy village of Broadchurch cruelly awoken by the murder of a young boy, Danny Latimer. Everyone’s lives are affected by the boy’s death and the worst is yet to come as detectives Alec Hardy (David Tennant, Doctor Who) and Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman, Peep Show) begin to probe further into the events leading up to the boy’s murder. Scattered along the first three episodes are a small number of clues for the audience to examine: Danny’s missing skateboard, some fingerprints amongst the crime scene, yet the writers have cleverly provided us with a mystery where no-one is safe from suspicion. From the whiter-than-white vicar to a self proclaimed ‘psychic’ who believes he can talk to Danny from beyond the grave, we can rule no-one out even by the third episode.
Tennant is wonderful as the rather unlikeable and gruff outsider police detective, who sweeps through the village without compassion or sympathy in his efforts to find the murderer. Even he is hiding secrets of his own in a series where nothing is as it seems. As usual, Tennant has an overwhelming presence on screen, and his scenes are undoubtedly the most enjoyable. Credit, however, is also due to Olivia Colman whose portrayal of the much involved local detective allows us to feel even more connected to the story.
Like Scandinavia’s The Killing before it, Broadchurch frequently shifts the focus onto the grieving Latimer family. The attention shown to the victim’s family is rarely a big part of British crime drama but here it allows Jodie Whittaker to shine as the mother who has lost her only son.
Broadchurch definitely lives up to the expectation surrounding it, primarily with the help of its heavyweight television Pauline Quirke (Birds of a Feather) and David Bradley (Harry Potter) joining Tennant and Colman. Yet it is not only the acting that makes Broadchurch stand out. The makers of the show have devoted time and attention to the atmosphere of the village which is its sole location which rather than rushing the plotline, provides a realistic backdrop and atmosphere that solidifies it. Creative shots of the local surroundings include dripping taps, and the sounds of the sea, providing a gloomily atmospheric background to dialogue. Although mostly a positive addition to the programme, attempts to make Broadchurch visually pleasing (with far too many slow motion shots, for example) do often teeter on cheesy.
So far Broadchurch has won me over, but it is not often that a programme can sustain a murder mystery plot for more than an episode, let alone the whole series. It will be interesting to see whether Broadchurch can remain a hit for the rest of its eight episode run. Regardless of this, ITV has finally proved once and for all it can do drama just as good as the BBC, and has finally moved away from the solitary merits of Downton Abbey.
Broadchurch is on ITV on Mondays at 9pm.
words: Caitlin Williams