TV Review: The Long Call (ITV)

Gays. Juliet Stevenson. Anita Dobson. Sarah Gordy. The Long Call is practically tailor-made to my interests, and it’s also a pretty darn good TV show too

“Let’s find out if we’re dealing with a revenge killing”

With its soaringly emotive soundtrack and stunning vistas of the southern English coastline, you’d be forgiven for thinking The Long Call is something of a Broadchurch redux but its pedigree is actually something much more established. Novelist Ann Cleeves has seen two of her detective series be adapted into long-running TV shows – Vera and Shetland, both of which I’ve never seen and will doubtless get around to one day… – and so eyes are definitely on future possibilities here.

And featuring a gay male detective lead, who gets to snog his husband in the first episode no less, it is breaking boundaries (albeit the kind of ones you would have thought were broken a fair while ago). Ben Aldridge plays DI Matthew Venn, a policeman who is naturally being forced to confront his past at the same time as solving a crime which is somehow linked to that past. Raised in an Amish-like sect from whom he is now long estranged, the funeral of his father coincides with the discovery of a body on the beach and investigating the crime means dealing with his upbringing.

 

Powerfully written by Kelly Jones, this four-parter explores both of those avenues skilfully. The identification of the body opens up a Pandora’s box of strife for the locals – Sarah Gordy’s Lucy, Siobhán Cullen’s Caroline, Aoife Hinds’ Gaby – all connecting in secretive ways. And as Matthew struggles to reconcile with his mother – the glorious Juliet Stevenson as Dorothy – even with the full support of hubby Jonathan, a carefully excellent Declan Bennett, he also has to confront sect leader Dennis (Martin Shaw) and his subjgated wife Grace, an exceptional Anita Dobson.

The murder mystery itself ends up not really being the focus of The Long Call, rather its a portrayal of the possibilities of healing. Whether through reconciliation, restitution or rejection of the past, there’s something profound here about dealing with mistakes. Additionally, it is directed beautifully by Lee Haven Jones with some stunning North Devon location work, beachside houses that scarcely seem real and gorgeous but intelligent camera angles that push perspective into some fascinating places. A lushly fabulous drama.  

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