“Psychological thriller that tells a story of prodigal redemption, as a son returns to his hometown to reconnect with his father and learn the truth about what happened between them years before.”- BBC
Producer: Paul Abbott
Written by: Danny Brocklebank
Starring: John Simm, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Claire Goose,
Love Paul Abbott, love John Simm, what could go wrong?
It may be wrong to think negatively of a programme because it was good rather than brilliant, but this is the case with Exile. Taken individually the three part episodes could be judged surprisingly differently with the first two instalments being engaging, witty and touching, but the third being disappointingly cack-handed in a rushed attempt to deliver the bulk of the plot and tie up every last loose end.
The concept itself is a simple but brilliant idea. A man struggles to discover the truth behind a family secret wrapped in political scandal but the one person who holds all the answers is his Alzheimer’s suffer father. Every scene with Tom (John Simm) and Sam (Jim Broadbent) is painfully frustrating and touching, yet writer Danny Brockelhurst does not compromise with the reality of the disease. Apart from the occasional hand squeeze and the fleeting moments of lucidity, there are no ridiculously emotional scenes, and no miraculous confessions. (I’d hate to think what Hollywood would do to the Sam character if it ever gets to a State Of Play style remake, but try and imagine Yoda starring in Terms of Endearment and I think you’d be close.)
Added to the dramatic gold of Simm/Broadbent there is the always wonderful Olivia Colman playing Tom’s little sister and Sam’s full time career. Whilst acknowledging her life is mainly thankless sacrifice and drudgery, she twists away from the downtrodden, joyless stereotype, instead the character is written and played as a fun and witty young woman, shouldering her heavy responsibilities, but refusing to be a victim.
However other characters are not so finely etched. Claire Goose adds little to her uninspired role as love-interest/barmaid/best friend’s wife. Other than being too thin and pretty to realistically be working at the local boozer, it is hard to see where the attraction lies. Mandy is dull, sullen, and little bit pathetic. Underlining her insignificance is a slightly uncomfortable moment when she interrupts her husband Mike and new boyfriend Tom having a drink to ask if Tom would be going home. “No” replies Mike, “He’s staying here, with you.” I love a bit of male bonding, but the ‘bros before hoes’ sentiment was cringe worthy.
The third episode was left with too much to do. The much-anticipated confrontation scene between Tom and Metzler (Timothy West) was lost amid the confusion of plot twists and revelations. There was so much to love about this drama, not least the sharp, funny dialogue and sympathetic performances. If only key plot points had been spread out a little rather than saved up to fight it out for attention in the finale then Exile could have lived up more fully to its initial promise.