An Inspector Calls is the second in BBC1’s current series of literary classics being brought to the screen, and follows last week’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover which was exactly like every other adaptation – except that it left out the sex and strong language.
Showing the class divisions in 1912, David Thewlis turns up as Inspector Goole, telling everyone that a young woman called Eva Smith (Sophie Rundle) has committed suicide, but who’s to blame and why’s he turned up at this location?
Told in flashbacks (obviously, as we see who has a motive during the time when Eva was alive), An Inspector Calls plays out like a Hammer Horror film as each cast member gives their excuses in turn, rather like 1972’s Tales From The Crypt, but in that case with everyone having a story about why *they* died.
First he picks on the patriarch of the family, Arthur Birling (Ken Stott), and we’re shown in flashback (as with all of the following cases) how Arthur accused Eva, who worked in his factory, of organising an uprising amongst the staff and causing everyone to go on strike, but still trying to give her a chance. He said he’d make her Leading Operator, bribing to pay her more to get everyone back off strike. She maintained that everyone should get the same, so he went back on his offer, telling her he’ll only pay them all what he calls the ‘going rate’, and persuading her to get them all to return to work… As they then walk back into the factory, he bins her off. But how can this have anything to do with her suicide when her sacking was two years ago?
Goole argues it could’ve started a chain of events which led to her suicide.
Arthur’s daugher, Sheila (The Game‘s Chloe Pirrie), once complained about Eva while shopping in a clothes store where she worked, misinterpreting a laugh for an insult. Then Eva changed her name to Daisy Renton, and Sheila’s better half Gerald (Kyle Soller) encountered her, leading him to getting in trouble with the missus for having it away with Eva for a few months until the summer was over.
Another time, Arthur’s wife, Sybil (Miranda Richardson) refused to help Eva when she was in need of financial support whilst pregnant, with Eva again using a different name – Alice Grey. And Eric (Finn Cole) was the one who got her up the duff in the first place. As you do.
So who’s guilty? It’s all of them. And the moral is not to be nasty to other people. It then transpired that the inspector was completely fake, and when he was showing them pictures of Eva, for all they knew he could’ve shown each one a different girl, as he would only show them the picture one at a time. And when they check a certain fact with the local constabulary, not only were no suicides were reported that day, but also that they do not have an Inspector Goole on the force!
As the youth of today might say – “Da fuq?”
In a neat twist, a girl THEN dies by the same method and Arthur gets the call that an inspector is on the way to ask them some questions… (cue shocked looks on everyone’s faces)
There was some great acting from all concerned in this, and it was well-paced, but despite a DVD being released, it’s not something I’d particularly want to sit through a second time.
Director: Aisling Walsh
Producer: Howard Ella
Screenplay: Helen Edmundson (based on the play by JB Priestley)
Music: Dominik Scherrer
The Inspector: David Thewlis
Arthur Birling: Ken Stott
Sybil Birling: Miranda Richardson
Eva: Sophie Rundle
Eric Birling: Finn Cole
Sheila Birling: Chloe Pirrie
Gerald Croft: Kyle Soller
Edna: Lucy Chappell
Miss Francis: Flora Nicholson
Alderman Meggarty: Gary Davis
Charity Lady: Wanda Opalinska
Millward’s Shop Customer: Philip Gascoyne (uncredited)
Factory Worker/Concert Goer: Margaret Wheldon (uncredited)
Factory Worker: Patricia Winker (uncredited)
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.