Rating :   ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️

Categorisation: Psychological family drama

Availability: Acorn

Storyline: Jonathan Fisher (producer) Lisa Mulchy (director) and the extraordinarily talented Sophie Petzal (screenwriter) bring this bleak and arresting family saga to the screen. The story begins with Cat driving from Dublin to the small Irish town of her childhood to attend her mother’s funeral. In the first scene she is throwing up beside her car along a dark country road, and the local police pull over. The Garda clearly suspects that she is under the influence of alcohol, but he gives her a free pass – her father, a local GP, is well known and liked in the small community. When she reaches the family home Cat soon finds that her siblings, Fiona and Michael, and her father Jim, all believe that Mary’s death was an accident, a fall that was a consequence of her chronic illness and declining health. But Cat, who has long been estranged from her family, thinks differently. She increasingly suspects her father is guilty of killing her mother. As she delves into the circumstances surrounding Mary’s death she exposes secrets that test family relationships and her own sense of reality to their limits.

Film-craft: This is a high quality production that captures a familiar Irish family experience, at least on screen, with literary references, small town constraints, and green landscapes. There is never a moment’s doubt where we are, and that this family will suffer internal divisions and display varying degrees of emotional damage that will ultimately drive the action forward. And it does. The intensity is deliciously relentless and there is no respite. Just brilliant family drama.    

Cast: Across the series, all the performances are exemplary and it’s difficult to single anyone out. But award-winning actor Adrian Dunbar is absolutely terrific as Jim, the family patriarch. Loving one minute, exasperated and menacing the next, he brings a seriously uncomfortable tension to the drama. Carolina Main is equally impressive as Cat. Clearly on the path to alcohol addiction, she presents a raw mix of vulnerability, anger and fearfulness. Grainne Keenan as Fiona and Diarmuid Noyes as Michael are outstanding as Cat’s siblings. They both bring neediness and strength to nuanced performances as everyone tries their best to get through the funeral intact.

Personal Comments: As in many families the characters in this series all have their own unique interpretations of what has happened in their collective past – who did and said what, and whose lives were most affected. But in this family drama there is a palpable sense of the stakes being exceedingly high. Cat is increasingly convinced of her father’s guilt, but her reckless behaviour causes us to question her reliability. Jim’s lies also raise questions about his character – is he well intentioned or Machiavellian? Everything is unpredictable as Cat impetuously and determinedly exposes all their secrets leaving everyone, including the audience, on tenterhooks and anxiously waiting for the next fearful thing to happen. If you like your family dramas full of suspense and surprise, this one is compellingly good.