movie film review | chris tookey

Happy Valley (TV)

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  Happy Valley (TV) Review
Tookey's Rating
10 /10
Average Rating
8.89 /10
Sarah Lancashire , Siobhan Finneran , James Norton
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Directed by: Tim Fywell, Sally Wainwright, Euros Lyn
Written by: Sally Wainwright, . Created by Sally Wainwright

Released: 2014
Genre: DRAMA
Origin: UK
Length: 0

Catherine Cawood (Sarah Lancashire, pictured), a no-nonsense police sergeant in West Yorkshire, discovers that Tommy Lee Royce (James Norton), the rapist who impregnated her daughter and drove her to suicide, is out of prison. She comes to suspect that he is involved in a kidnapping.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Sarah Lancashire is a force of nature in Happy Valley, which has so far run for two series and will easily sustain a third. As the title ironically suggests, Catherine Cawood is a very unhappy woman, divorced and living with her recovering alcoholic sister (Siobhan Finneran). She’s bringing up her grandson (Rhys Connah) even though he reminds her of his rapist father. Lancashire’s performance runs the gamut from quiet, dry irony to full-on grief and rage; it’s one of the finest ever on any kind of screen.

Other actors are almost as impressive. Siobhan Finneran is moving as Catherine’s sister, sometimes supportive, sometimes demanding. James Norton is a thoroughly creepy villain, mainly because he clearly believes he’s in the right and can’t understand why Catherine is so hostile. In series 2, the ever-reliable Shirley Henderson rivals him for creepiness, as Royce’s most obsessive fan.

Another fine performer is the setting, West Yorkshire, which can be beautiful at one moment, grim at another.

Sally Wainwright’s writing, though, is the real star. There’s plenty of tension and invention in the crime thriller plotting, but much, much more character depth and development than we’re used to. It’s character-driven drama, and the characters aren’t the usual cliches. Wainwright skilfully undercuts the moments of horror and suspense with touches of wry humour, but she has a firm grasp on the kind of anguish that victims of crime feel. The reason that Catherine Cawood comes so alive is that she’s not only enforcing the law, she’s a victim of it. Her fight with crime is to the death, if need be.

The increasingly out-of-touch powers-that-be at my old newspaper, the Daily Mail, tried to whip up hatred for the programme’s graphic violence, but this did not make much purchase with the public, who loved the series’ realism and gut-wrenching power. And quite right too. The violence here is far from gratuitous; it sets out to shock and it does. We’re made fully aware that when Tommy Lee Royce and his ilk turn to violence, it’s because they’re frightened, weak and cowardly, not controlling, strong and masculine. Would that more TV series - especially American ones - made this clear.

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