Written by David Nicholls, who brought us One Day and Starter for 10, The 7:39 provides an ambivalent love story between two people who share the same monotonous commute Monday to Friday.
Carl (David Morrissey) is a married father of two, whose home life doesn’t have the same excitement it used to. His only escape is his job, a career in property he’s had for a while, but he has even grown to hate that. His life is passing by one agonisingly loathsome day after another with no signs of respite. Until Sally.
Sally (Sheridan Smith) is a divorced, middle-aged gym manager currently living with her fiancée Ryan, who is pressuring Sally into an increasingly lavish wedding and is desperate for the couple to have a baby. When Sally steals a seat from Carl on the 7:39, the two begin to make their morning commute a lot more interesting.
If you’ve ever had to commute, then you know how frustrating the journey can be. People like zombies staring into a book or the morning paper, never making eye contact or polite conversation. You can see the same faces every day and in doing so create stories about them, who they are, why they’re here and what they do when they exit those sliding doors.
The tedium of the daily commute then becomes a dread, so when something happens to change it for the better, you want to pounce on it and not let it go. Carl and Sally are mixed up in that emotion. Both with problems at home and work that they’d rather not deal with, they find themselves walking the thin line between friendship and flirtation.
Trouble arises when Carl and Sally act on their impulses, succumbing to their baser desires during a rail strike that sees them trapped in the capital overnight. After viewing this, couples may suddenly question each other’s commute or even start looking differently at their fellow passengers.
Both Carl and Sally are relatable everymen/women, which is what makes The 7:39 so awkward. At one point in our lifetime, we have all undoubtedly felt stuck in a rut and wanted to get out. We have probably all felt temptations tug, but let our head rule over our heart. There can be no excuse for Carl and Sally. What they did was ethically and morally wrong – they even admit so themselves. Yet the story is written well enough to have us want them to become the next pair of star-crossed lovers. When things eventually start to come undone, there is a feeling of regret that they got caught.
Despite putting a lot into the growth of their relationship, there isn’t a great deal put into its conclusion – we get a “Two Years Later” scene instead of a full final episode. The 7:39 is not a happy love story or a dramatic romance; it’s frustrating and uncomfortable. It’s well acted and well written, taking you on more than just a railway journey, but like the lead couple, you won’t necessarily feel good for it.
In the bonus features on the DVD, we have a five-minute behind-the-scenes feature, which offers very little insight. The actors show admiration for the crew and the crew tell us how they filmed on an actual moving train. The most interesting fact to come out of this feature is knowing that until Carl and Sally start interacting, all the train shots were fixed to emulate the static nature of their lives. Once the two begin their romance, the cameras become hand held and mimic the shaky instability.