One of Us review: a clever, chilling and original thriller

Ben Dowell is eager to watch more of Jack and Harry Williams’ latest thriller as the writers of The Missing continue their good form

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What a clever little thriller this is shaping up to be.

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We start with an horrific killing, look straight into the eyes of the desperate drug-crazed murderer of a beautiful young couple Adam and Grace (who is pregnant) and… then what? Where can it go from here?

Well, we go the family that’s what, facing the unbearable unthinkable impact of their grief before another twist. The killer we assumed to be a random attacker hot foots it in a stolen car up to the remote Scottish highlands where the two families live. But before he can carry out whatever nefarious deed he was planning he crashes. The family find him barely alive, realise he is the murderer (he has their postcode written down, so is clearly looking for them, and is wearing dead Adam’s watch) and then imprison him.

Only writers Jack and Harry Williams have yet another twist for us: Rob (Joe Dempsie, below) has been lying and had not called the emergency services. And the killer, who has been caged by the families, is then finished off in the middle of the night, despite the best attentions of Joanna Vanderham’s Claire (below), the medic who puts the ethics of her work ahead of her feelings while caring for a man who killed her brother.

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But before you can say “who killed him?” and “will they get away with it?” there’s another twist. Louise’s estranged husband Peter, played by Adrian Edmondson, reacts in a decidedly weird manner to the news that his son has been killed: he doesn’t seem to be too bothered. He tells his new wife that there was “no-one” on the phone when he listened to the voicemail. Cue credits.

It’s a strong opener to what promises to be a gripping four-part series with plenty to be resolved.

The Williams brothers have a knack for playing creatively with well-known genres (think their James Nesbitt series The Missing which focused on a missing child but held back until the very end the revelation of whether the youngster was alive or not) and they seem to have pulled it off again.

This is about the murder of a murdererer by the victim’s families, which explores the nature of grief and retribution in new and interesting ways.

It reminded me a little of Scandi Noir; not just in the rain sodden beautiful grey and gloomy scenery but in the way the drama focuses on the aftermath of a murder, rather in the manner of those brilliant opening episodes of The Killing series one which was steeped in powerful emotions emanating from a killing. Many of the scenes are also lit from behind – eery, and chilling, all a bit Reservoir Dogs.

A word too for the scenery which does its job magnificently. “It’s just a bit of weather Bill,” says Gary Lewis’ hardered farmhand Alastair at one point but of course it’s more than that. The crashing storms are a fitting metaphor for the emotional life of the characters but director William McGregor does a good job with other less obvious motifs. I liked the cutaway to the spider’s web, which echoes a line earlier in the drama and is another pointer to the hell this family now finds itself in.

Of course there are questions to be asked. Why didn’t Claire stay with the killer overnight if she was really such a devoted nurse? The plot requires the police to be given a back seat early on. Quite why they hadn’t visited the family yet suggests they may not be up to the job but there is an intriguing set up with Laura Fraser’s character Juliet. She’s a detective who deals drugs to help fund an operation for what we presume is her cancer stricken daughter. And with this story she has her work cut out.

Also, the performances are first rate, even if a lot of the acting requires rather a lot of frenetic emoting as this horror story unfolds.

But when we’re dealing with frenetic emotion, it’s also true to say that Juliet Stevenson (below) is made for the role of howling angry, stricken mother Louise, (a recovering alcoholic also, as it happens) and I also liked the interaction between Juliet Graham ‘s Moira and John Lynch as her husband John. These acting veterans are ably supported by the younger cast.

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I’m quite excited at the prospect of episode two and will probably join Louise for a stiff one…

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