Villordsutch reviews River…
River is the latest in the line of Nordic Noir to arrive on our television sets. This BBC offering – set in London – brings a “Nordic” element to the shores of Blighty in the form of the rather excellent Stellan Skarsgård. Unfortunately thanks to the Marvel movies most people will possibly recognise him as Erik Selvig or the real thinkers out there “the crazy one from the Avengers”. To the rest of the world you’ll recognise him from Nymphomaniac Vol.1 & 2, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Melancholia and of course from the classic Mamma Mia. Instantly River gains a fair amount of gravitas with Stellan Skarsgård on-board.
This being said we need a good story to keep us hooked into six hour long episodes otherwise people will become bored rapidly and Abi Morgan provides just that. Our main plot revolves around the murder of River’s ex-partner Jackie ‘Stevie’ Walker (Nicola Walker) and the investigation into her death. This leads to numerous different stones being up-turned and shadowed alleys being uncovered up to the final heart-crushing reveal. There are a scattering of “B-plots” within this series to highlight the issues that are haunting River along the way.
The main issue in particular is his mental health. River has lived with a mental health condition from childhood and we discover midway through the series his mother abandoned him due to this. We witness the victims of crimes – currently being investigated – manifest themselves in front of River, sometimes these projected voices can help River put his thoughts in order or in other cases they goad him, as we see with Dr Thomas Cream (Eddie Marsan), who is the darker side of River’s thoughts; bringing his negativity violently to the front. The voices severely affect his social and work life as he’s often seen talking to himself or acting out a conversation with thin air.
Taking both the story and the mental health of River then weaving them together is a master stroke by Abi Morgan. The story alone is interesting, but if I’m truthful timid by most Nordic Noir standards however with the addition of a person with a serious mental health condition, whilst attempting to cope with it then also seeing his work colleagues accepting it, is quite a breath of fresh air. Stellan Skarsgård’s portrayal of River is fantastic; he’s a lonely man who feels more at place amongst the broken and isolated of London, the lost jigsaw pieces who have managed to somehow come together. This along with Adeel Akhtar – as his partner – who is trying his hardest to help River survive both the mourning of his previous partner and his mental health flare-ups, both of these actors have an excellent on-screen presence together.
Roll on Series 2 of River for I would like more Stellan Skarsgård and Adeel Akhtar please.
Check out our recent interviews with Stellan Skarsgård and Adeel Akhtar.
River is available to buy now and you can purchase it from Arrow Films here.
Villordsutch likes his sci-fi and looks like a tubby Viking according to his children. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter.