REVIEW / Falling in love the second time round

DON'T LOOK now, but Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland are back together. Or they were until he was killed - again. Twenty years ago, in Nicolas Roeg's version of Daphne du Maurier's tale of menace in Venice, Sutherland fell foul of a dwarf. This time round it was a lorry load of explosives. But it was good while it lasted.

The Railway Station Man (BBC 2) reunited cinema's most famous coupling couple, which was quite a coup for Screen Two. Screen chemistry is not something you get by writing large cheques: witness the vat of froth called Falling In Love that brought Streep and De Niro together for the first time since The Deer Hunter. Good scripts are usually a better insurance, and Shelagh Delaney's adaptation of Jennifer Johnston's novel was more than good.

Christmas lights twinkled in the window as the police arrived to tell Helen (Christie) that her husband, a teacher, had been shot by the IRA. They had got the wrong man. Ten years on she had moved across the border to the coast of Donegal, where she was busy painting the view. Also on site was Roger (Sutherland). He had been deprived of an arm in Vietnam and was now an itinerant railway station restorer. They seemed worthy pursuits for two bruised loners but, in the words of Manus, an unsmiling provo who had turned the heads of her son Jack and his assistant Damian, they were 'fiddling while Rome burns'.

Damian was played sotto voce by John Lynch, the lanky, skinny republican from Cal, and the moral theme of personal loyalty vs political conviction resurfaced here. Somehow, though, it wasn't central. The Troubles have been interpreted and portrayed often in films like this - sensitively, obliquely, subtly - but rarely to the extent that you almost forgot they were part of the picture.

For a start, much of the picture was taken up by Donegal, magnificent and craggy and basking, by the looks of things, in an unprecedented amount of sunshine. Christie skinny-dipped in the Atlantic and it almost looked like the Bahamas, except that for the rest of the time no one dressed, or drank, that way. Like Everymen who were what they wore, everyone kept the same clothes on throughout - Damian his bomber jacket and woollen hat, Manus his lugubrious overcoat - and they were always warming themselves with tea or Irish coffee or stout. In the scene in which Sutherland and Christie, after an idiosyncratic courtship, consummated things, he didn't bother to take off his jacket, and she was still in her woolly socks and hiking boots. For another act of intimacy, he did get down to his braces. Presumably the director Michael Whyte wanted to erase all memories of Roeg's swiftly cut encounter.

All the performances were vigorous but restrained. Christie, still radiant despite all the tragedies her agent has got her cast in, put on a lovely lilting Ulster accent that helped to gloss over the fact that she doesn't look remotely Irish. Sutherland loped around charmingly, flashing that extraordinary smile and looking just the type of amiable control freak to get all obsessed with disused signal boxes. Delaney's script made light of its dark, symbolic work. In one scene, Helen wanted to give her son's old toys to jumble but he stopped her, retrieving his Lego and board games - and this man is a messenger boy for terrorists. In another, Damian danced naked for her in the sea as she sketched him, and their sense of liberation had nothing to do with nationhood.

Only Christie's infrequent voice-overs seemed superfluous. 'All I do is paint my loneliness, my anger, my sadness and my hope,' she confided after the death of her boyfriend and her son, which must have read better on the last page of Johnston's novel. As the camera pulled away from Helen's cliff-top cottage at the end of the drama, with three burnt-out vehicles singed into you from the previous shot, the view of the rugged coast explained that the land would outlive all squabbling over nationality. The Irish Tourist Board must be purring. They're not the only ones.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams in True Detective season 2

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Off the wall: the cast of ‘Life in Squares’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Books And it is whizzpopping!

Arts and Entertainment
Bono throws water at the crowd while the Edge watches as they perform in the band's first concert of their new world tour in Vancouver

MusicThey're running their own restaurants

Voices
The main entrance to the BBC headquarters in London
TV & Radio
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

    Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

    Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
    Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

    Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

    David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
    Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

    Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

    A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
    10 best DSLRs

    Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

    Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
    Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

    Solved after 200 years

    The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

    Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

    Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
    Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

    Sunken sub

    Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

    Age of the selfie

    Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
    Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

    Not so square

    How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
    Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

    Still carrying the torch

    The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

    The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

    ...but history suggests otherwise
    The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

    The bald truth

    How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
    Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

    Tour de France 2015

    Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
    Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

    A new beginning for supersonic flight?

    Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash