The Town starring Andrew Scott – Review Sherlockabilia Shop Now Open

The Town starring Andrew Scott – Review * 24 December 2012

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A three part drama about dealing with loss in the most of horrendous of circumstances while being forced to face your past, The Town features a tour de force performance from Andrew Scott in the leading role, a constant in a slightly uneven mini-series.

Following a shocking family tragedy, thirty year old Mark Nicholas returns to the town where he grew up, many years after departing for London. Now responsible for his grandmother and fifteen year old sister, his grief leads him to unexpectedly uncover a conspiracy quietly being buried by local government, while he simultaneously reconnects with those he left behind years ago, including his former love.

Make no mistake, The Town is very much a performance led piece. As Mark, Andrew Scott produces astonishing work here, initially shell shocked, shattered and softly spoken, his rage quietly bottled up. But later, everything comes spilling out of him in dramatic ways that begin to impact the lives of everyone else around him. Andrew handles the initial stages of grief with incredible realism, his numb arrival home in the first fifteen minutes giving way to ever more reckless behaviour as he searches for the truth. It is not a completely morose role however - moments of humour and romance are offered up as well, making Mark the most rounded male role in the series.

He is matched by newcomer Avigail Tlalim as Mark's younger sister. Diving recklessly into a separate facet of grief, Jodie rebels against the new status quo her life has to take through unsuitable relationships, her lack of responsibility contrasting but also mirroring her elder sibling's actions.  Avigail portrays the teenage anger exceptionally well, her frustrations spilling out all the more understandably given the circumstances. Julia McKenzie closes out the Nicholas family as Grandmother Betty, keeper of secrets that her grandchildren are unaware of, but determined to help the family's now dire situation however she can. Appearing briefly at the start are Siobhan Redmond as Kate Nicholas and Phil Davis - a familiar BBC Sherlock alumni from A Study in Pink - as father Tony. The story of this family forms the spine of the entire mini-series, and each episode is fairly self contained thematically - the first begins with death and concludes with a funeral; the second - and strongest - hour is framed around the almost monolithic shape of a scatter tube of human ash, with the remains being spread at the close; and the third is the ultimate hunt for closure through the discovery of the truth.  

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Outside of this fractured family unit are a wide range of supporting characters in other parallel story threads. Martin Clunes, veering from ebullient to threatening as the fading town mayor, gains an initially bewildering amount of screen time that actually lacks much in the way of narrative, dealing with his hand off to his successor until his actions begin to dovetail with those of the Nicholas clan. His brief scenes with Andrew Scott are some of the most alchemically interesting in the duration of the mini-series. Charlotte Riley appears as Mark's former love Alice, now unhappily married with a daughter and completely thrown when he returns. Although mostly one-note in the first hour, her guard drops in the second and third parts with interesting, yet possibly predictable results. Douglas Hodge features as the Policeman investigating the central tragedy while harbouring his own measure of guilt, and Gerard Kearns makes an impact as Daniel, seeming at first like a hanger on in events, before a personal connection is revealed. It's notable that all these plot points, while initially seeming distinct from the main thrust of the narrative, are all carefully interwoven with the larger structure of the central family tragedy, reinforcing the title of the piece and the close knit sense of a community.

It's slightly bewildering then to find an additional story being played out between a pair of florists, played by Kelly Adams and Aisling Bea. Their mutually antagonist story thread that eventually turns into attraction feels oddly extraneous, and it is ultimately symptomatic of the resolution of the entire piece. Mike Bartlet's screenplay, after three hours of winding story threads, feels as though it closes so neatly it would be tied up with luxurious comfortable ribbon and a splendid bow. As we often find with a mini-series, we'd like to spend more time with these characters, but once the revelations are uncovered this series simply ends - where a further hour to explore the aftermath would possibly be more interesting.

In summary, The Town comes with a caveated recommendation. Featuring an astounding central performance from Andrew Scott that the other cast members all gravitate around, it is very much reliant on the strength of the acting rather than the plotting, which is predictable at some extremes, and wildly unexpected in others. As an examination of the guilt and development of grief though - and the lengths we go to while suffering it - it succeeds admirably. The Town is an enjoyable three hour mini-series that, with a more judicious focus, could have been much stronger.  

The Town is due to be released on Region 2 encoded DVD in the UK in the future.

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