Saturday, January 22, 2022

The Girl Before (BBC Mini-series, 2021)


This was the Beeb's extremely classy mystery-thriller offering for the festive period, based on the bestselling book by J.P. Delaney. It was so good on the eye that I feel I might have been a little distracted from some flaws which would have been more apparent on paper. 

The basic set-up is this: two women (neither of them a 'girl', as such) sign a seemingly mephistolean contract involving the lease at remarkably low rent of a somewhat fanatically ideological modern house in London, which comes with rules and a sort of life of its own. Soon we learn that there has been a three year gap between their tenancies and that quite a lot of bad stuff happened to 'the girl before'. 

The present day occupant Jane, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, is quickly beset by worrying parallels before deciding (at the point most of us would have just moved out) to conduct an investigation. 

In the end the stand-out stars turn out to be Jessica Plummer and Ben Hardy, playing the previous residents. This is because Jane's character is rather obviously an inscrutable contrivance decked out in stylish winter coats. 

Yet for the format to function both of the women have been left unencumbered with significant relationships beyond a single friend and romantic partner. 

These days thrillers struggle for credible no mobile phone moments. Here I found myself at the next level: "Surely she'd have an Apple watch?" (Other ways of being permanently online are available.) 

David Oyelow plays Edward Monkton, the militantly minimalist architect, a walking red-flag, but also obviously not guilty of any serious crime to anyone familiar with the genre. If that's a spoiler, you are indeed a newcomer to this sort of thing. 

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