The Cry is a messy and confusingly put-together whodunit that paints a convincing portrait of early motherhood but an unflattering one of flight attendants.
The Cry has a lot going for it. For one thing it now occupies the prime-time 9pm BBC One slot which, for the last six weeks, has been the home of Bodyguard. It also stars Jenna Coleman, otherwise known as a Doctor Who companion and the Queen of England, which makes her some kind of actual British TV royalty. And it’s adapted from a bestselling thriller by Helen Fitzgerald. The pieces, as they say, are very much in place. Unfortunately what they amount to, at least so far, is a bit rubbish.
Coleman plays Joanna, a young mother whose partner, Alistair (Ewen Leslie), is a useless beardy tosser. That sounds a bit harsh, but stay with me. See, their relationship began with an affair. Alistair was married to Alexandra (Asher Keddie) and had a daughter, Chloe (Markella Kavenagh), but nonetheless decided to take his new squeeze back to the family home for the old no-pants-dance. Of course he got caught, his wife and kid swanned off to Australia, and Joanna moved in. Cue uninterrupted dancing of the pantless variety. Cue baby Noah.
That isn’t Alistair’s only dick move in The Cry. He’s one of those breadwinning dads who get to wear earplugs during the night so he can wake up with a spring in his step for work – not altogether unreasonable. But he’s also one of those dads who likes to think he’s supportive without actually doing anything. On a thirty-hour flight to Australia he dons a mask and one of those bendy travel pillows as Joanna lugs Noah up and down the aisles having a minor breakdown. He’s a prick.
So there’s no wonder Joanna is pissed off, especially when the flight attendant inexplicably asks her if there’s anything she can do to make Noah shut up, as the other passengers are trying to sleep. That’s fabulously unlikely, in my experience, but it is all part of The Cry hitting the usual post-partum beats. Needless to say Joanna’s party-hard bestie can’t be bothered with her anymore, and random passers-by make incredibly snarky comments about how many layers of clothing the kid’s wearing and whether he needs feeding and so on and so forth. It’s a wonder Joanna hasn’t killed someone.
That, of course, is the question. While she and Alistair are in Australia (they’re there, by the way, because Al has randomly decided to seek full custody of Chloe, totally out of the blue) Noah goes missing. Now, admittedly, they left him alone in the car, which is kind of a no-no. But nonetheless he’s snatched, thus complicating a familial drama that’s already a bit topsy-turvy even before infants start disappearing.
It’s not a bad hook for a psychological whodunit. Everyone’s automatically a suspect, as they always are in such things, and Joanna strikes a sympathetic figure in the lead, even if The Cry is blatantly bending over backwards to raise questions about her ability to parent. And that’s part of the problem. It all, thus far, feels wearingly false and overdone. A struggling mother is far from an outlandish concept, but the absurd comedy of errors she’s subjected to in just the first episode makes her plight seem artificial.
And the structure! Christ, you’d think Noah was snatched from the DeLorean. We’re shown flashbacks of Joanna and Alistair meeting, flashforwards to Joanna on trial and then back a bit to her being psychoanalysed to determine whether she’s fit to stand that trial, back to the sort-of present-day for the long flight and the kidnapping, and forward a bit again to the beginnings of the media circus in the wake of Noah’s disappearance. It’s nonsensical. Piecing the timeline together doesn’t take much effort, but it’s unnecessary effort that I shouldn’t have to expend on a Sunday evening, thanks very much. There’s no reason for The Cry to be this needlessly convoluted. It doesn’t benefit the story, and what’s more it’s annoying.
Sorry about all this. I get the sense people are determined to like this show, and you shouldn’t let me put you off. But it’s all a bit messy at present, so much so that it’s difficult to really compliment The Cry’s serviceable psychological underpinnings or its solid, bruised leading performance. I hope it gets better, and that it stops trying quite so hard to be clever.