TV Review: Southcliffe - All Souls (2013)

on Thursday, August 22, 2013
'Southcliffe' Part Four: 'All Souls' (UK Airdate: 18 Aug '13) // Words: Saam Das

Oh, 'Southcliffe'. You promised so much yet in your finale, you delivered so little. In fact, 'All Souls' almost felt like writer Tony Grisoni had mixed up his scripts and ended up writing an episode of another drama. A bitterly disappointing ending to what began as some of the most intriguing programming on British television for quite some time. MAJOR SPOILERS follow.

A year on from the Southcliffe shooting spree, 'All Souls' very much concerned itself with David Whitehead (Rory Kinnear) and Claire Salter (Shirley Henderson) - one struggling to recover from a career-ending outburst, the other struggling to manage the grief resulting from her daughter's shooting.

David receives a mysterious note suggesting that further tragedy could hit Southcliffe, although the possibility of Morton being the person responsible seems to be dropped somewhat quickly. Morton's possible survival seemed like an important plot point in the previous episode but things moved in a different direction, placing disaffected ex-soldier Chris (Joe Dempsie) in a Morton-esque role.

The most frustrating aspect of 'All Souls' was the disintegration of Claire. 'Southcliffe' has emphasised the manner in which different people grieve - particularly, in terms of Phil's philandering - but Claire's antics seemed so ludicrously out of character that frustration and anger, rather than sympathy befell me.

Her decision to find an old friend of her daughter's, who may well have been in difficulty, is perfectly understandable. Particularly in light of her work in social care. The manner in which she goes about this business is awkward, antagonistic, and to put it kindly, foolish. Claire going round threatening people in the most bumbling fashion possible before dressing up as a prostitute was troubling - even the characters within the programme seemed to realise how ridiculous the situation had become.

In fact, the moment Claire began graphically piercing her nipple with a safety pin made me seriously considering giving up on 'All Souls'. I persevered. 'Southcliffe' has admittedly been judged all along to be "challenging viewing" from the outset - in particular, the non-linear narrative and flashback editing proving all too baffling for some. But not for me, I enjoyed the seamless nature of the transitions, drip-feeding backstory and contextualising the events.

Similarly, the bleakness brought forth by director Sean Durkin was never a problem for me, as it has been for many other viewers. Indeed, I revelled in the misery. But there's only so far you can go with editing, cinematography and ambience before the plot and dialogue has to earn their crust. There were moments when these elements did surface but perhaps too infrequently - powerful scenes such as Claire repeatedly trying to call her (dead) daughter remain stark in the memory.

The pre-airing promise that 'Southcliffe' would explore the tragedy from the perspective of the community (rather than focussing on the shooting itself) never seemed quite fulfilled. Perhaps we actually needed more of the rampaging Stephen Morton (Sean Harris), who we saw mere glimpses of in the final two parts but had proved compelling earlier in the mini-series.

Instead, we got more of David, a character played impressively by Rory Kinnear but one whose ultimate redemption seemed almost unwarranted (despite his bravery in returning to Southcliffe) and unsatisfying. Much like the end to 'Southcliffe'. But undoubtedly that was part of the point - the lack of closure and answers is something that people at the heart of tragedy are often left facing. But perhaps such a motivation would have been equally effective after three (not four) parts of 'Southcliffe'.


'Hollow Shore' (Part One) review
'Light Falls' (Part Two) review
'Sorrow's Child' (Part Three) review

Watch 'Southcliffe' on 4oD. The series will be released on DVD on August 26th, pre-order at

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