This review contains spoilers.
This past month there have been a slew of top-notch dramas. From taut thrillers (ITV’s Prey) to zombie dramas (the BBC’s In The Flesh, though that description is unseemly) to gritty crime sagas (another gem from the same stable as In The Flesh, Happy Valley is buttock-clenchingly tense), the exceptional quality has never wavered so you could say expectations were high for tonight’s new offering, From There To Here.
Written by Peter Bowker – who last penned Eric And Ernie, which won star Daniel Rigby (also seen here) a Bafta – From There To Here is a love letter to Manchester and all who inhabit it. Like Prey before it, the drama makes use of Manchester’s outlying redbrick estates as well as some extensive shots in the city centre. James Strong, of Doctor Who and Broadchurch fame, is a more-than capable choice of director and mans the camera with a deft touch.
While the always reliable Phillip Glenister is first billed, the story is very much about his family as well as him. From There To Here kicks off with four people converging on a hotel bar in the mid-nineties – crotchety Samuel Cotton (played by Bernard Hill), his layabout son, Robbo (Steven Mackintosh), his other son, Glenister’s Daniel, and self-sufficient mother-of-two, Joanne (an exceptionally good Liz White). Daniel is trying to restore harmony between his father and his brother, both on bitter terms, when the IRA explodes a bomb that shatters the city. All four are caught in the blast – Joanne just happens to be tending the bar – and each of them escape with only minor cuts. Samuel brushes the incident off with the same manner as one would having been stung by a bee, Robbo continues his ne’er-do-well lifestyle and Daniel is the only one rocked by the incident. He subsequently finds himself evaluating his life and pursuing the affections of Joanne despite already being in a relationship.
From There To Here feels halfway between a missed opportunity and a cracking good drama. The writing is naturalistic enough (excluding the script’s grossly jarring lines about being picked for something special, reflections on being alive the day of the Manchester bombing, and wanting to be someone else) and Glenister puts enough emotional oomph into his performance that his borderline stalker behaviour felt real. Liz White too, makes her character true to life, a single mother juggling two jobs and two kids, the eldest of which is disabled. But it was Steven Mackintosh’s Robbo who felt like a pure stereotype, a loafing nightclub-owner who happened to borrow thirty thousand pounds from bomb-planting drug dealers. Samuel, too, comes across as something of an archetype: a stiff, disdainful confectionery magnate. Bernard Hill did manage to inject some customary pathos into an otherwise clichéd role; Mackintosh did the same, a first-class job with a second-rate character.
The cliffhanger at the end of episode one felt somewhat cheap. Bowker appears to have no faith in his audience returning for the next instalment and resorted to stapling on a ‘dun-dun-dun’ nail-biting ending to make them come back. The last few minutes reminded me of an old spy caper down the picture palace with the dashing lead in terrible peril. Will Daniel survive after putting the bomb on his lap (I’ve still no idea why he did it)? Won’t he? Tune in next week for another thrilling episode in the British Broadcasting Corporation’s new television programme, From There To Here!
With Daniel seemingly having this other romance with Joanne, away from his partner, Claire (a woefully underutilised Saskia Reeves), Robbo still in trouble with the local thugs and Samuel recovering from his stroke, the wheels are set in motion for the rest of this miniseries. It’s a rocky start and definitely not Bowker’s finest hour but it’s watchable enough Thursday evening entertainment, and the script is laced with an ample dose of humour, preventing From There To Here from getting too melodramatic.
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