Amber, BBC4 - TV review: A characterless crime thriller not worth staying on the case for
Ellen E Jones
Ellen is The Independent's TV critic. She writes a daily review of Last Night's TV and a weekly 'Inside TV' column for the i paper, as well as a column on general topics for the main paper most Wednesdays. Ellen is a former Hollywood correspondent and a contributing editor to Little White Lies, she's written on TV, film, lifestyle, travel and politics for publications including the Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, Esquire and Total Film.
Tuesday 03 June 2014
Here is another foreign-made drama series to fill the Killing-shaped hole in BBC4's evening schedules. Originally made for Ireland's RTE, Amber stars Eva Birthistle (Waking the Dead, Strike Back) and David Murray (Quirke) as recently separated couple Sarah and Ben Bailey. When their 14-year-old daughter Amber goes missing, the Baileys are forced into a reunion of sorts, as they attempt to organise an effective search.
Amber has been billed as a crime thriller, but there wasn't much in the way of thrills in this first episode, and there wasn't much in the way of compensatory atmosphere either. It's possible that suburban Dublin is a place characterised by a total lack of character, but more likely that the writers have failed to create the specific sense of place that's often the saving grace of a low-budget drama like this one.
What Amber did offer was a promising format: each of the four episodes is named after a different character and will look at the girl's disappearance from a different perspective. The intended effect is presumably to build a picture of how a missing person impacts upon families and whole communities.
The Bafta-winning Broadchurch successfully managed to do just that, while also keeping the mystery plot moving along at a decent pace. Eva Birthistle is just as talented an actress as her Broadchurch equivalent, Jodie Whittaker, so it's telling that she achieved far less emotional impact over 50 minutes of dedicated screen time than Whittaker typically managed in five.
Her character, Sarah, is so cardboard and the dialogue so dull, that there's no hope of passing this off as a study of grief. Any pathos the actors did manage to eke out of their material was soon undermined by a soundtrack apparently selected from the ringtone menu of a Nokia 3100.
As the days of the investigation counted on screen – Day 3, Day 24, Day 62 – we were left praying for a new development or break in the case. The best that can be said about this is that it at least gave some insight into the terrible tension parents must feel. But while the Bailey's misery will extended over weeks, months, years, of not knowing whether their daughter is dead or alive, I'd lost interest after 20 minutes.
ReviewThese heroes in a half shell should have been left in hibernation
Sek, k'athjilari! (That’s “yes, definitely” to non-native speakers).TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Indian footballer Peter Biaksangzuala dies after injuring spine doing somersault celebration
- 2 Jack the Ripper: Scientist who claims to have identified notorious killer has 'made serious DNA error'
- 3 Drink alcohol and eat meat to improve male fertility - but cut down on coffee, studies suggest
- 4 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
- 5 Lynda Bellingham dead: Loose Women presenter dies after battle with colon cancer
Breaking Bad season 6 is still not happening
Doctor Who, Flatline - review: Clara isn’t half bad as the Time Lord
Downton Abbey review series 5, episode 5: Period drama falls disappointingly flat
Star Wars Episode 7 has almost finished filming
X Factor 2014 results: Chloe Jasmine and Stephanie Nala sent home
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Sorry Judy Finnigan – Ched Evans is no less sickening than an alleyway rapist
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Workers 'could be forced to pay £5 a week' to get benefits
Russell Brand threatened with arrest after filming outside Fox News headquarters
Amal Alamuddin calls for the return of the Elgin Marbles from Britain: 'Injustice has persisted for too long'