mon 15/07/2024

The Night Caller, Channel 5 review - all he hears is radio ga ga | reviews, news & interviews

The Night Caller, Channel 5 review - all he hears is radio ga ga

The Night Caller, Channel 5 review - all he hears is radio ga ga

Robert Glenister and Sean Pertwee star in smartly-written thriller

A haunted man: Robert Glenister as Tony Conroy

Showing over four consecutive nights, Night Caller is a stripped-down psychological thriller which steadily boils up to a conclusion which is both shocking and tragic.

Robert Glenister turns in a meticulously controlled performance as Tony Conroy, a former schoolteacher now scraping a nocturnal living as a cab driver in Liverpool (you’d never guess the show was filmed in Dublin). A haunted and lonely character, broken by his failed marriage, he becomes fixated with the small-hours radio talk show hosted by Lawrence Brightway (Sean Pertwee, pictured below), whose relaxed, sandpapery voice makes him an inspired choice for the role.

Having worked up the courage to call in, Tony gradually becomes a regular phone-in guest, and he seems to have found a kind of guiding light in the sympathetic Lawrence, who adopts him as a kind of cause célèbre. During these nocturnal chats, we get to learn a bit about how Tony was a science teacher, a job he loved, but got the boot after 27 years because, he says, his “face didn’t fit”. Lawrence suggests this might not be the whole story, and Tony’s chance meeting with an ex-school colleague who talks about how unfairly Tony was treated hints at the devastating effect the experience has had on him. But you’ll need to stick with all four parts before the picture becomes clear.

Director Diarmuid Goggins gives viewers a subliminal heads-up that there’s some dark stuff lurking in the attic by dropping in some cryptic scenes of what appear to be a teenage boy drowning, so you always have that uneasy feeling that something traumatic is about to come crashing through the fourth wall. Don’t worry, it will, but meanwhile the action proceeds with a kind of purposeful stealthiness.

There’s excellent support from Suzanne Packer as Rosa, who runs the all-night cafe where Tony regularly drops in. The bond between them grows gently into what might almost become a romance, before it begins to look like Tony was born under a bad sign. The threatening presence of Rosa’s ex, a thuggish-looking character mysteriously named Ste, is a warning of stormy weather ahead, and Rosa is going to find out the hard way that a whole lot of angst lies behind Tony’s battered exterior. And let’s face it, putting yourself in the hands of a blarney-merchant on the radio is never going to be a great career move.

This is an impressive effort by screenwriter Nick Saltrese, who has carefully built his narrative around a small core of well-developed characters. He has kept his focus tight and resisted the temptation to stray off-piste and dilute the drama with too many red herrings or unnecessary plot twists. Nice one.

Screenwriter Nick Saltrese has kept his focus tight and resisted the temptation to stray off-piste

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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