UK TV review: The Cry
Ivan Radford | On 01, Dec 2018
“What we went through brought out the worst in us,” says Joanna (Jenna Coleman), as she relates the events of The Cry to us in hindsight. It’s a confession, of sorts, and one that only becomes more shockingly true with every episode.
The four-part series hits hard with the gut-churning fear of two parents who have to face the unthinkable: that their child has gone missing, or worse. But what’s impressive is that this is just the focal point for a thousand tiny, cutting details.
Jenna Coleman is brilliant as the anchor around which the show pivots, a young woman who has found herself a mother and faces all the unromanticised struggles that entails – the pressure felt as she has to try and quiet her baby, Noah, on an airplane is unbearable, only alleviated by more tension elsewhere, as her husband, Alistair (Ewen Leslie), takes her to Australia for a custody battle over his teenage daughter with his ex, Alexandra (Asher Keddie). Everyone has their own angst and ambiguities; The Cry is less a mystery thriller and more a nuanced exploration of all the taboos and expectations that face parents, before they’ve even got to the anxiety-inducing cliffhanger of the opening episode.
What follows is no less agonising, as Joanna and Alistair have to both find Noah and deal with the scorching spotlight of public scrutiny. It’s a dizzying whirlwind of half-facts, heated public relations and rushed conclusions, and we see each player in this narrative react to it differently; Joanna logs into chat forums anonymously to follow discussions about her, as if watching someone’s else life from a distance, while Alistair lines up a book deal and photoshoot, before working with a charity for people in similar situations.
Neither, as Joanna intimates later, is a positive or healthy response; Ewen Leslie is fantastic at playing Alistair with a mix of the unloveable and the pathetic, trying to construct the best possible story of events to play down their responsibility for the incident, while Coleman’s Joanna is heart-wrenching as she stumbles from one revelation to the next – a journey that’s contrasted superbly with her more detached state, as she consciously breaks down into the titular tear-filled outburst live on TV. “Don’t ask me to cry again,” she declares to Alistair after one heated argument.
The show deftly keeps us on their side of events, rather than zoom out for the police perspective, and so we see Alistair trying to uncover what the cops know, as much as Joanna attempts to find out what exactly happened to Noah. The whole thing, to that end, is framed through a conversation and official statement made by her, which ensures that every observation and recollection is tinged with uncertainty. That not only gives The Cry its twisting, turning hook that keeps you watching, but also places us in the seat where we feel the maximum emotional impact of each revelation – whether it’s the subtle shifting of blame from one person to another, the constant questioning of who should be on trial for what wrongdoing, or a desperate attempt to get in a car and race away from it all. A complex web that brings out the worst in both the main characters, this is impeccably painful TV.
The Cry is available on BBC iPlayer until 19th May 2019.