The Movie Waffler TV Waffle - RIVER | The Movie Waffler

TV Waffle - RIVER

BBC's Stellan Skarsgard starring detective drama.

Review by Troy Balmayer (@tbthereviewclub)

"It’s a must watch to see how stereotypical shows can be played around with, how visuals can elevate a show and just how good writing for TV is becoming, as we all knew anyway. River flows with intelligence and thoughtful drama."

Absolutely coursing with thrills and intrigue, this cop drama is special in not overly relying on those clichéd elements; we delve more into the mind of a policeman as his own mental psyche is explored.
DI John River is in the aftermath of a traumatic incident. He and a team at the Metropolitan Police are attempting to find the suspect involved as secrets untangle and River himself comes to terms with who he is and who he knew.
Created by Abi Morgan, writer of The Hour, Shame and the recent Suffragette, this show is packed with amazing details. She writes each story of the six episode run with care and information that builds a captivating story around the person River is and becomes. I liked that it utilised the police aspect but didn’t overly play on it either; that could have bogged down what was a pretty special show about someone’s state of being. Abi Morgan gifts the series mystery and necessary crimes to solve but adds interesting human touches that help the story immensely.
It’s not necessarily a double act, but River and Ira King work together in a somewhat true way as Ira balances out the faintly unhinged detective. The DCI herself has her own problems, the judge of the show becomes tainted, nearly every character has a flaw or problem that makes the series feel more real, more dramatically relevant. The visionary reveals are done so well also; the character of Thomas Cream is stand out in being visibly different but working in River’s frame of mind. All people and events come together to make this show work a lot.
The character work is great and is enriched by the look of each episode. Directed in two episode blocks, by firstly Richard Laxton, then Tim Fywell and lastly Jessica Hobbs, the stories and main story being told look brilliant, like a buzz of a magical yet haunting daydream. There’s an energy to each episode as we follow River tackling the crime. I can only describe watching this play out as being engaging and somewhat complex as we follow each clue or try and trace where it could go to next.
I realise the series hasn’t finished yet but the ending is the only thing that let me down. It felt right for the character I guess, but was perhaps too much of an unwanted comedic moment, so much so that the emotional tragedy behind it isn’t felt like it may have been. Also, the person behind the crime is great but when thought about isn’t such a fantastic twist or realistic suspect.
Stellan Skarsgard is undeniably a prolific actor and can bring great drama to his acting; this is no less true than here as he plays the damaged yet likable John River. He’s expressive and grumbly but can flick to a humorous gentleman when needed, which helps us buy into River as a character. Nicola Walker is a fun yet dangerously unreliable character as she comes in and out through the narrative. She plays her part very well in not knowing exactly who she is. Adeel Akhtar plays the needed balance in helping River. There’s a lightness and comic streak to his Ira but he grounds it with the patience and assistance provided to River’s fragile side. Eddie Marsan crops up from time to time attacking the scenes with power and Victorian edginess that help thrust the manifestations idea into riveting territory. Lesley Manville plays Chrissie with authority in a usually man’s world and it’s great seeing a female tackle the men and lead them to decisions. She becomes weakened as her own story plays out, which is fine, and Manville gives the character that see-sawing amount of emotion.
It’s a must watch to see how stereotypical shows can be played around with, how visuals can elevate a show and just how good writing for TV is becoming, as we all knew anyway. River flows with intelligence and thoughtful drama.

River is available on DVD from Arrow Films November 30th.

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