TV REVIEW: Southcliffe - Light Falls


After the slow-moving yet intense opening episode, Southcliffe continued with another tension- wrought instalment as we're introduced to the wider community of the small coastal town. Opening with a moment from the shooting itself, a brutal and shocking first scene, the episode once again moves back in time to focus on the events leading up to it. 

The focus of the first episode, the shooter Stephen Morton (Sean Harris), has less screen time here, but it works much more effectively; he becomes an almost spectral presence in his absence and a dark prophetic omen whenever he does appear. It leant a new layer to the proceedings as the aforementioned opening scene sees him get his revenge on Chris (Joe Dempsie), the returning soldier who tormented him, by shooting his young wife in bed next to him. His motivation is established quickly for the rest of the episode; he'll punish those who he felt treated him badly by targeting those people around them.

The resultant sense of dread creeps into every scene and makes seemingly innocuous moments all the more significant. Lines that should be throwaway, like a daughter commenting on her father nicking himself whilst shaving, carry much greater weight, simply through the association of blood. Once again, the sound was also used to startlingly good effect to maintain the discomfort caused by the visual scenes unfolding. Whether it is the oppressive silences that characterised much of the first episode or long, droning sounds that force their way into the scenes, it's consistently intrusive. 

Curiously, the expansion of Southcliffe to include two more families, as well as spending more time with Rory Kinnear's journalist David, doesn't make the show seem any larger. In fact, it is quite the opposite as the inner workings of these close-knit families feel claustrophobic and oppressive. With the episode moving confidently between the time periods, it also has a rather unsettling effect as you try to piece together where in the story you are and which characters are currently the ones in danger. 

The episode also works to establish a stark contrast between the residents of Southcliffe (both present and former) and those coming in from the inside. A particularly harsh moment was the gleeful journalist revelling in Stephen's entrapment whilst shots fire in the distance. It's a fairly damning comment on the way in which these unfolding events are covered by the press as everything becomes sensationalised whilst the residents are left to deal with the after-effects.

Southcliffe is a masterful exercise in control on Durkin's part; every aspect of the episode feels carefully constructed with every scene counting, every sound effect deliberately placed. In a year that has seen some outstanding British drama, Southcliffe is up there with the very best.

- Becky

You can read Becky's review of first episode The Hollow Shore here.

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