Detectorists

Rating :   ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Categorisation: Comedy

Availability: Netflix, Acorn

Plot: The British miniseries detectorists was first conceived by the comedian Mackenzie Crook who then wrote, directed and starred in what became an award-winning series. First broadcast in 2014, its difficult to provide a synopsis of this lovely programme, where nothing much happens, and we get to know unremarkable people going about their unremarkable lives. But it doesn’t take many episodes for us to discern deep currents in a screenplay that deftly lifts the ordinary to the extraordinary. Andy and Lance are friends who share a common interest in metal detecting. They go together regularly, sweeping the pastoral landscapes with their metal detectors in the hope of finding Saxon treasure that they are convinced is lying beneath the green fields of Essex. But this is more than a series about men and their hobbies. It is about the ways in which people struggle through life, their vulnerabilities and strengths, their joys and disappointments. And it’s very funny.

Filming and setting: Although the series is set in the fictional town of Danebury Essex, much of the filming takes place in Suffolk. The photography, in its long-shots and close-ups, captures the serenity and beauty of the English countryside. There are long, lingering shots of the most beautiful insects, meadow flowers, and hazy sun drenched evenings as Lance and Andy sweep for gold. The rest of the action happens in the village as the series makes great use of local facilities – a scout club in Framlingham becomes the headquarters of the Danebury Metal Detectors Club, Framlingham College doubles as the local University, and various community inns give us the feel of British pub life. Danebury is the quintessential English town.

Cast:  It turns out that the casting in the Detectorists is something of a family affair as Crook brings together a reunion of friends and family – Becky (Rachel Stirling), Andy’s partner in the series, is actually Lance’s wife in real life. And Becky’s mum is played by the late Diana Rigg, Rachel’s real mother. It’s all a bit odd, but makes perfect sense in a series where relationships are central and where close friendships lay the foundation for the best comedy. Mackenzie Crook and Toby Jones play Andy and Lance brilliantly. They are sometimes hapless, often exasperating, but always endearing.  And the rest of the cast is outstanding too. Of particular note, Gerard Horan plays the wonderful Terry, President of the Danebury Metal Detecting Club. Sophie Thompson, Terry’s delightful and eccentric wife Sheila is fabulous, and   David Sterne is terrific as Larry Bishop, the mad farmer upon whose land Andy and Lance detect.  The beautiful theme tune of the series by Johnny Flynn is a character all of its own. Multilayered with a haunting refrain, we get to know the first verse in series 1 and, joyfully, we hear the second verse in series 2. Then if you have any doubt that this is a love song, a grieving lament, as well as a celebration of metal detecting, just have a listen (https://youtu.be/Q58Gm18-IMY).

Personal Comments:  You might wonder why a series about a couple of blokes who spend their time searching for treasure with their metal detectors has caused such a sensation. The answer rests in the simple perfection of the series. The pace won’t suit everyone. But the series is full of melancholy, beautifully crafted, funny, and believable. It playfully captures the art of the almost – Andy and Lance believe there is treasure there and as the series evolves they almost find it. Through aerial shots the film makers cleverly show us just how close they are to finding it. It doesn’t surprise me that after the series was launched there was a 35% increase in the sale of metal detectors in the UK. Watch this one. And if you have already seen it, give yourself a treat and watch it again. 

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