TV Review: Southcliffe - Sorrow's Child (2013)

on Saturday, August 17, 2013
'Southcliffe' Part Three: 'Sorrow's Child' (UK Airdate: 11 Aug '13) // Words: Saam Das

Few other dramas of a similar ilk to 'Southcliffe' could get away with an episode showing just a solitary glimpse of arguably the central character. And that moment came almost forty minutes into 'Sorrow's Child'. Instead, we delved deeper into the long-standing disaffection of journalist David (Rory Kinnear) and the strife of the grieving philanderer, Paul (Anatol Yusef). Minor spoilers follow.

'Sorrow's Child' is something of a departure from the previous two parts, leaving much of the mire of bleakness behind with considerably more "showy" moments of tension. Indeed, the episode opens with Claire (Shirley Henderson) visibly struggling to maintain her emotions as the brutal reality of her daughter's death becomes apparent.

Yet the crux of 'Sorrow's Child' is the inability of David to understand how the residents of Southcliffe failed to see any signs that Stephen Morton (Sean Harris) could commit such heinous acts. His disaffection for the town grows as the parallel to his own father's tragedy also increases. David's disaffection turns to incredulity as the stereotype of a "sleepy market town" full of "good folk" continually bears down upon him.

While we can understand with David's thoughts, his consistently dubious journalistic tactics undermine our sympathies - here, he badgers an elderly neighbour of Stephen's - who, like the rest of the township, failed to see any signs of what was to come. Similarly, Paul cements his character as potentially the most unsavoury of the lot, showing disregard for the safety of his niece and a continued inability to just keep it in his pants.

Writer Tony Grisoni's characters seem to engage in an unhealthy amount of self-loathing and self-destruction. Perhaps this can be explained by the overwhelming sense of grief that has overcome the entire town. Otherwise, scenes like Eddie Marsan inviting someone he'd not seen for twenty odd years to see his dead daughter may appear curiously far-fetched. Frustrating or compelling, I'm yet to decide.

In the context of the mini-series, 'Sorrow's Child' perhaps hinges most on a brief encounter between a former police officer and David - suggesting that the supposed resolution of Stephen shooting himself did not occur. With just a single episode left, much remains unanswered and unexplored. Many of the questions, perhaps surprisingly, relate less to the killer and more to the supposed secondary characters, like David and Claire.


Part One ('Hollow Shore') review
Part Two ('Light Falls') review

Watch the final part of 'Southcliffe' this Sunday at 9pm on Channel 4. Catch up on 4oD.

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