I love it when Autumn rolls around because it means that the BBC really up their game on their dramas. In the wake of the recent and undeniable successes of Bodyguard and Killing Eve, the stakes were high for new Sunday night drama, The Cry. With Jenna Coleman in its starring role as an emotionally distraught mother coping with the apparent abduction of her new born baby, it was sure to draw in some healthy ratings, but how does it compare to the BBC’s recent series?
After hour one of four, I was unconvinced, I have to say. But it became apparent very quickly in episode two that this a slow burn, a psychological thriller as opposed to the action-packed relative simplicity of the likes of Bodyguard. Based on Helen Fitzgerald’s 2013 novel of the same name, it is in many ways a poignant character study of what the lethal cocktail of post-natal depression, an unsupportive husband and the general pressures of society can do to a new mother. Reading an interview with Fitzgerald, it’s obvious that Coleman has encapsulated the character of Joanna, inspired by Fitzgerald’s own experiences, perfectly –
‘It’s a common sign of post-natal depression, the feeling that everyone else is coping. I was obsessed with child-rearing books too, desperate to be right…’
In the wake of recent pushes to open up conversations about mental health, it is important to remember that pregnancy related issues are all too real. The opening ten minutes or so provides us with some uncomfortable viewing: this is obviously a young woman in dire need of help but is trapped in her own home unable to ask for it – a perfect metaphor for the illness itself.
I am unsure whether I like Joanna as a character or not; there are times when she seems frustratingly cold and absent from the events that are happening around her, that I don’t think can just be explained away by her underlying mental state. But I’m not sure if this is the point. Joanna finds her own ways to cope with her devastating situation, despite the lack of an overly strong support system around her – no spoilers about whether her coping mechanisms are always the best ones… Kirsty, the ever loyal and caring best friend, sticks by Joanna through the whole ordeal and over whole continents of separation, proving just how valuable a friend is when family situations are more complicated. The publication of the book, and its adaptation by a major TV channel has ensured that a diverse discussion of mental health remains in the mainstream. Joanna stands for much more than just a written character, and it is this that matters over her likability. I’d highly recommend this easy four-hour binge as a socially relevant and emotionally gripping series.