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It is the middle of the day when Leanne Wellings stops to buy flowers
by the roadside on her way to see her grandfather with her children.
The children are in the car when Leanne goes missing. The kids abandon
the car and search for her and it is many hours before grandfather
Victor calls the police. Later that night Leanne's husband Matt and his
stepdaughter Tanya raise the alarm properly and a missing persons
investigation is launched headed up by DSI Barclay as the family
implodes with hope and worry.
Following on from the success of previous BBC/HBO crossover The State Within, this next joint effort was really pushed by the BBC, which maybe helped it get ratings but perhaps didn't help it when you look at the approach it takes across all five hours. The story is engaging but you do need to understand that it is not a cop thriller but rather a character story that is as much based on the mystery as it is on the emotional and personal impact on all those involved. I say this because I know many viewers were disappointed with this approach and I think it may have been because they assumed that the hype meant it would blow everyone away. And of course it didn't but what it did do was effortlessly draw me into the people and have me caring about everyone involved.
Thus this is one of those dramas where it is not all about the resolution as it is about the overall drama. This is a good thing because the characters are all pretty well written throughout the five selected days and they are convincingly developed or broken as we meet them each time. This worked really well for me and the cast respond well to it. Some have seemingly stock characters with things going on outside this story while others are right in the middle of the pain and loss. Oyelowo turns in yet another strong performance as the husband and his emotional range in the character is impressive, but he is far from being the whole show. Wilton and Malahide both work well together as the parents. I didn't totally think Smart made her character work and, as much as I like Amuka-Bird as an actress, I'm not sure it helped anyone to have her walking round constantly with an air of surrogate grief. Bonneville is solid while Bonnard, McTeer and others are strong. The child performances are mostly good although Dryzek is the strongest of the three and stands up very well alongside the adult cast. Woodward is good but not given as much to do as I would have hoped.
The downside of this approach though is that the actual story of the crime and the investigation is not as good as it perhaps should have been. Too often things rely on coincidence to move the case forward and I didn't like the way that many things happened while the characters are all within spitting distance of it I appreciate the town is supposed to be small but not that small! The conclusion to the disappearances may also bug some viewers because it is in keeping with the way that it unfolded and, in my opinion, not that satisfying or convincing.
Overall then a very good character drama that is sadly not quite as good as an investigation. The cast all rise to the material and are roundly good with the script. I'm glad I watched it because I did enjoy it but it is not as perfect as some of the gushing reviews around would suggest.
'Five Days' is billed as something special, a crime drama that consists of a series of episodes, each set on one particular day of a police enquiry. But in fact, this element of the story turns out to be rather less significant than might at first be thought, as the fact that the action in each episode is confined to 24 hours is hardly noticeable, and very little distinguishes the program from countless other crime stories. In fact one almost can't help drawing comparisons to the last 'Prime Suspect', as one of the sub-plots focuses on a single, cynical female cop approaching retirement: and it's not just the absence of Helen Mirren that makes the comparisons unfavourable. There's a lot of earnest over-emoting, manipulative music and a set of characters seemingly contrived so that each one is in some sense sympathetic, in another suspicious. And it's possible to guess the guilty party well before the end, not because of the internal dynamic of the story, but rather because of the construction of the drama as a whole: certain things must be true, to justify the way that the series focuses on certain characters at certain times. In spite of these failings, the series grew on me: by the end, I was quite gripped. But it's a sad sign that the BBC, which once made the likes of 'The Singing Detective', boasted of this of "possibly the best drama of the year": for there's little true originality on offer here, and the claim reveals a lack of ambition that is dreadfully disappointing. 'Five Days' is in fact not rubbish; but it is formulaic, and one would hope that the very best the BBC had to offer would be something a little more innovative and fresh.
A number of posters have commented on the unsatisfactory conclusion.
This is always a problem with long, complex dramas. Crime is
essentially banal, so the pay off is always anti-climactic, whilst
detailed exposition detracts from the human drama. The writer has used
a number of clever devices to try and get round this, but has not been
entirely successful. Answers to precisely what happened and why may
have been supplied, but if so they are well buried. The viewer
inevitably feels a little cheated.
But in a sense this is unimportant. The drama was never about the crime, or even the investigation, it was about the impact of events on the lives of those involved; the family, the investigators, the witnesses, the press. And as such it was gripping. The writing was a significant cut above the run of the mill for prime-time drama, and the performances uniformly good. In an ensemble piece it is invidious to focus on individuals, but Penelope Wilton deserves special mention for an extraordinary tour de force as the mother-wife-daughter, and Janet McTeer was in cracking form as a hard-bitten old cop.
One of the most interesting aspects of the drama is the handling of race, as the elephant in the room that no-one is prepared to mention. Subtle, powerful stuff.
My wife and I have watched the first three episodes in one sitting and am counting the days to the last two. What elevates this above the usual police procedure series, is the way that it examines the crimes through the eyes of all participants. The police, the journalists, the families, the neighbours and the workmates are all examined in detail showing how serious crimes can affect a whole community. The acting is superb, particularly that of the older generation, played by Patrick Malhyde, Penelope Wilton and Edward Woodward. A nice Jane Tennyson type character played by Janet McTeer her boss Hugh Bonneville and Phil Davies as a hardened reporter all contribute to some fine ensemble acting. The stories of the many characters gradually come together in a way that constantly challenges your perceptions of what is going to happen next. Reminiscent of the story-telling style of 'Crash' or 'Short Cuts', this is superior television and should not be missed.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I totally got drawn into this and couldn't wait for each episode. The acting brought to life how emotional a missing person in the family must be , together with the effects it would have on those closest. The only problem we as a family had was how quickly it was all 'explained' at the end. We couldn't hear clearly what was said and have no idea what Gary's part in the whole thing was? Why did Kyle phone him and why did he go along with it? Having invested in a series for five hours we felt cheated that only five minutes was kept back for the conclusion. I have asked around and none of my friends who watched it were any the wiser either. Very strange but maybe we missed something crucial ????
One of the finest pieces of television drama of the last decade. Throughout the five hours, ones perceptions and sympathies are constantly challenged as it explores many facets of modern day British society. David Morrisey is, as usual, brilliant. At first coming across as a heavy handed copper in conflict with the heroine, but then proving to be intelligent and caring, as he works with her in uncovering the truth. I have never seen Surrane Jones before. I believe she comes from the world of television soaps. Her performance was magnificent, as she maintains her humour and composure whilst trying to balance the demands of the case and the stress of caring for her mother. I could go on and talk about every member of the cast who contributes to this magnificent drama, but their efforts would mean little without such an absorbing script that constantly challenges your assumptions about any of the characters. It is programmes like this that restore one's faith in television drama, whilst at the same time making it almost impossible to settle for most of the garbage that is increasingly filling the airwaves.
Gripping thriller concerning a mother who disappears from the roadside
after stopping to buy flowers en route to see her wheelchair bound
grandfather (Woodward). Her two small children are left by the
roadside, and themselves become missing persons when they set out to
find their mother. Father (Oyelowo) leads the hunt for his missing
family in the hope that some, if not all, will be found alive before
it's too late.
There's a lot of detail as you'd imagine in such a long mini-series, but the forensic analysis and character development makes for compelling viewing, never laboured and certainly not time-bound. While the cast may be mostly unfamiliar, they each seem to be on the same page narratively, displaying a unique angle from which to elaborate on their perspective of the mystery. Apart from Woodward (whose character is largely extraneous to the plot), only Patrick Malahide, Bernard Hill and Pene Wilton were recognisable, although Sarah Smart leaves an impression as the concerned but somewhat vulnerable nanny with whom Oyelowo becomes involved in a complex, but at times suspicious arrangement.
"Five Days" documents each day in the increasingly desperate hunt for the missing trio, a reflection of the kind of urban mystery that happens from time-to-time in real life. Like most British police shows, there's a highly procedural and forensic method of storytelling with which you'll either be comfortable, or find irritating if you're used to the more exaggerated spectacle of American cop shows. Tense, addictive and highly recommended.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This five part BBC drama is a bit like it's other flagship drama The
Streets. That is well made, well acted with some interesting story
lines but is confined by the Show's premise that all the characters
live in the same street which limits what happens to them.
Five Days is similar in so far as limiting the action to five days it gives little room for the story to breath. And the title implies that the action takes place over five consecutive days but it doesn't, so why bother? But what a disappointing story it is. Like the last series it starts off well with the discovery of an abandoned baby in a hospital and death of a young girl who jumped in front of a train. Was she pushed? Is there a connection between her and the baby? And we meet various characters who are on the train whose lives are connected in more ways than one.
But as the episodes progress it becomes more apparent that they are going to have a hard job successfully tying up all the loose ends. It's it a bit far fetched to believe that the driver of the train is in a relationship with a woman who is seemingly responsible for the death of the person who jumped of the bridge. Also there is a lot of stodgy stuff about the Muslim faith and a couple of young men who have been to Pakistan for terrorist training. All this bogs down the plot rather than enhancing it and it's hard to see what message the writer is trying to convey. We get to the last episode expecting answers to all the questions raised earlier but a lot of these are mentioned almost in passing and you are likely to loose concentration waiting for something interesting to happen.
The most unbelievable part of the last episode concerns the baby's Grandmother and her confused motives. She snatches the baby and takes him to the baby's mother who is a hopeless drug addict. Her plan seems to be that seeing the baby will force her to give up drugs and become a proper mother to the child. But the grandmother is also an ex-junkie and would know how difficult it is to come off drugs and anyway the girl dumped the baby in the hospital because she didn't want it. Also considering how manipulative the grandmother is it's hard to see why the baby's father would be so comfortable in her presence when they are both at the shopping centre with the social worker. She is the key to the whole story but her actions are explained in a few mumbled sentences at the end.
All-in-all a great pity because the series has a good cast (especially Surrane Jones and David Morrissey) but in its attempt to be too clever it failed leaving this viewer with a slight feeling of being cheated.
I am on episode 4 and it's like watching a train wreck. The script is non-sensical, the acting is bad, the characters are mostly loathsome and the series of bizarre coincidences (mother of the crazy dude is the nurse for the guy grandfather in the nursing home, reporter finding the girl, dog walker appears in more than one silly plot line, there is a big running race with the annoying reporter as a participant, the race running right along the scene of the lake right when the kids were trying to get a boat ride - I could really go on...) . I checked online to see if there were bad reviews for this thing for my commiseration, but it seems to be getting decent reviews. I am baffled. I weep for humanity if this is considered a good series.
This is a very engrossing BBC-TV mini-series which is loosely based upon a mysterious disappearance of a young mother, but the series is really more of a study of the assorted characters in the story, which lasts for five hours. It is thus very much an ensemble piece, where the wide variety of brilliant British actors and actresses can show off their talents. The actual characters portrayed are really 'the kind of people one does not normally meet', people so boring and nondescript that it is difficult to admire them. For instance, the lead character is a young husband (the one whose wife disappears) who has no job and no apparent interest in finding any. He lives off handouts from his parents-in-law. He was once in the Army but does not appear to have the slightest flicker of any ambition or any interests in life apart from doting on his small family. He is played by David Oyelowo, who is brilliant at the part, coming across as a totally sympathetic person, although his only activities for five hours are loving and grieving, which he does superbly, so that one wants to comfort him, as he is so obviously a nice guy. The standout performance of the whole series is unquestionably Penelope Wilton, who acts circles round everyone else in the story. She is simply incredible. She portrays a very unsympathetic woman, indeed the only character in the story who is all too familiar to everyone, namely an irrational, hysterical, self-centred, dense, querulous, blindly loving and blindly hating, elderly idiot-woman. Alas, alas, we know them too well. Wilton is one of Britain's finest actresses (see my review of her in 'Half Broken Things'). She takes a character who could have been two-dimensional and makes her four-dimensional. She is wonderfully supported by old pro Patrick Malahide, who plays her exasperated husband, and the pair of them set a high standard indeed for all the younger players. Janet McTeer, a spectacular actress when younger, has become a much less sympathetic type of person now that she is older, has coarsened in some way, and puts one off, but she redeems herself in the latter stages of the story by showing how brilliant an actress she can be when she has a chance by pulling off one of the most convincing and original drunk scenes I have ever seen on film. The big surprise is the enigmatic character Sarah, played with great depth and originality by actress Sarah Smart. She takes a character who could have been insufferably tedious and by sheer acting magic turns her into a deeply mysterious and intriguing person, about whom we wonder tirelessly for the entire five hours. She is so good at it that we end up wondering about Sarah Smart, frankly. I guess that's what happens when you really do your job properly, that people wonder where the character ends and the actress begins, if she knows herself, that is, and many do not. She has some deeply unnerving tricks with her eyes, which wobble and let us know she is unhinged, but we are not sure how or why, though we eventually learn that she had an extremely violent and traumatic childhood. Her mastery of ambiguous facial expressions is extraordinary. Rory Kinnear is amazingly convincing as an apparently hopeless fellow who lives with his mum and isn't up to much, but who turns out to have hidden depths. (I suppose most people have hidden depths, but do we want to plumb them, that is the question.) His mum is played very well indeed by Margot Leicester. A superb performance is given by Lucinda Dryzek, who plays a snotty, revolting teenage girl of the sort we all dread to meet, but who at crucial moments collapses in helpless tears and turns out to be pathetic, with all her arrogance just a pose. Three other children are also very good, Lucinda's friend, and her younger half-brother and half-sister. The younger siblings may be very dim indeed as characters in the story (they seem unable to say anything particularly articulate, being hopeless witnesses to the disappearance), with little to recommend them but their sweet natures, but that is conveyed to wonderful effect by Lee Massey as the boy and Tyler Anthony as the girl. Harriet Walter has a small role, but we do not get to see much of her, which is a shame, as she is such a fine actress that she was wasted here. One could go on, but one must draw a line somewhere. The series manages to be strangely fascinating because of the depth of portrayal of all these essentially uninteresting people caught up in a web of intense anxiety and suspense.
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