Requiem centres around top cellist Matilda Gray (Lydia Wilson, who fans of Star Trek Beyond will remember as Kalara, the alien who sought help from Kirk et al after telling them Idris Elba’s Krall had attacked her ship), a young woman at the top of her game who’s about to embark on a concert tour of New York with musical partner Hal Fine (Joel Fry) when her mother, Janice (The Thick Of It’s Joanna Scanlan) commits suicide in bizarre circumstances.
Prior to this, you’ll have witnessed another person taking their life. Are they connected? And why does Janice have a box under her bed full of items about a young girl, Carys Howell, who disappeared from Penllynith in Wales, in 1994 at the age of four, and has never been seen since. There’s certainly no help from the police, as they try to find any answers, going through the confidential information, perhaps in a diary, this is her investigation, it’s not a public inquiry… cue private investigation that takes them to that there Wales, tracking down the girl’s mother, Rose Morgan (Claire Rushbrook).
However, I’ve watched the first two episodes and without giving spoilers, after setting out the premise, Requiem breaks out occasionally into some crazy J-horror nonsense – cue lots of weird sound FX, things going bump in the night, and a jump-cut to a few seconds of person’s head spinning back and forth whilst screaming. Beyond that, there’s elements that we’ve seen in other dramas such as the female cop in the pub who’s talking to a suspect over a drink, realises their story doesn’t add up, so wants to haul them in for questioning on an official basis.
Also caught up in this are Brendan Coyle and Tara Fitzgerald, but in a Welsh town where everyone scowls at the new arrivals like that pub in An American Werewolf in London, the only smiling face comes from James Frecheville, who’s faring better here as I’ve only seen before in the disastrous Pierce Brosnan thrill-free thriller, I.T. (not to be confused with the clowning around in IT).
There’s lots of arty shots, such as when two people are standing in front of each other as they talk, with a shot of each at a time – one person looking to the right while standing on the right-hand side of the screen, and the other looking to the left while standing on the left-hand side of the screen, both only taking up the lower half of the picture while the top half is filled with wall/sky/etc.
So far, it’s a case of style over substance and from episode 3 onwards, it needs to up its game and get on with more story rather than being derivative of Japanese horror cinema. This isn’t the first BBC drama series to do this, and I remember 2014’s Remember Me, starring Michael Palin, for which I can remember feeling similarly out of place as a UK programme. That couldn’t get back on track, but hopefully Requiem can.
Requiem begins this Friday on BBC1 at 9pm, and is available to pre-order on DVD, ahead of its release on March 12th. After broadcast, you can watch it on BBC iPlayer for 30 days after transmission, and click on the packshot for the full-size version.
Episode 1 Score: 5/10
Episode 2 Score: 3/10
Director: Mahalia Belo
Producer: Susan Breen
Writer: Kris Mrksa
Matilda Gray: Lydia Wilson
Hal Fine: Joel Fry
Nick Dean: James Frecheville
Rose Morgan: Claire Rushbrook
Janice Gray: Joanna Scanlan
Verity Satlow: Pippa Haywood
Sylvia Walsh: Tara Fitzgerald
Trudy Franken: Sian Reese-Williams
Aron Morgan: Richard Harrington
Lloyd Satlow: Simon Kunz
Ed Fenton: Dyfan Dwyfor
Stephen Kendrick: Brendan Coyle
PC Graves: Clare Calbraith
David Morgan: Brochan Evans
Carys Howell: Emmie Thompson
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.