TV Pick of the Week: Boat Story - review by Yvette Huddleston
This six-part thriller from writer-directors Jack and Harry Williams is up to their usual high standards – it’s sophisticated, surprising and completely enthralling. Set in the fictional Northern coastal town of Applebury, where nothing much usually happens, it follows a series of unfortunate events that unfold after two strangers meet on a beach early one wintry morning.
Daisy Haggard plays factory worker Janet who in one of the opening scenes is involved in a horrific industrial accident which results in the loss of all the fingers on her left hand. It is the latest low point in a run of bad luck that includes separating from her partner who has found religion (and a younger woman) and now won’t allow her to see the beloved teenage stepson she has brought up since he was a toddler.
While out walking a neighbour’s dog, Janet meets Samuel (Paterson Joseph). He is a solicitor who has recently relocated from London with his wife and daughter. The real reason for the move – which his wife doesn’t know about – is that he is addicted to gambling, has lost all their money and was forced to sell the family home as a result. The pair find a boat washed up on shore that contains two dead bodies, plus a stash of what looks like millions of pounds worth of cocaine. Janet’s first instinct is to call the police, Samuel persuades her otherwise.
The action then moves to Paris where we meet ‘the Tailor’ (Tcheky Karyo) who it turns out is the owner of the drugs shipment that Janet and Samuel have just stolen. He is not the kind of man you would want to mess with, as is made abundantly clear in a deeply unsettling scene in which we see him dealing brutally with someone who has displeased him. He then heads to Applebury with henchman Guy (Craig Fairbrass) to sort out the mess and track down the thieves. He also unexpectedly falls in love with local baker Pat (Joanna Scanlan).
The Coen Brothers have definitely been an influence here, as has Quentin Tarantino, so be warned – the violence is pretty graphic. The narrative is punctuated by silent movie-style intertitles and a sonorous, darkly ironic voiceover from Olafur Darri Olafsson. It is all very knowing, but stays just the right side of smug, keeping the viewer intrigued and entertained throughout. Clever, classy and blessed by uniformly excellent performances, it’s a bit of a gem.