First things first: the opening episode of chilling new BBC One drama The Cry is nothing less than a total mindf*ck. Most of the way through, you’ll be scratching your head, wondering if you’ve missed a bit (you haven’t). HANG IN THERE.
I already get the feeling this desolate psychological thriller – starring Victoria’s Jenna Coleman as struggling new mother Joanna, who from the get-go talks enigmatically about the ‘two Joannas’ (complete with spooky hand gestures) – will be worth the ride.
As a mother of two young boys, the premise of this entire drama – that Joanna’s son has disappeared from his car-seat while his parents are in a supermarket – makes my blood run cold. It’s the stuff of nightmares.
But it’s not even as simple as that. Indeed, we only find out that Noah’s gone as the episode draws to a close, as the plot twists and turns between various points in time, following the style of the book The Cry is adapted from, by Australian author Helen FitzGerald.
First, Joanna meets her future partner Alistair at the primary school she works in, then we see her, sweat-drenched, in the throes of labour, followed by a trip to Australia where Alistair is fighting for custody of his teenage daughter, Chloe. A wide-eyed, hollow-eyed Joanna loses it on their 24-hour flight to Melbourne, shouting at stunned fellow passengers, ‘Does anyone else want to give this a go?!’ as she holds her screaming baby aloft). She’s just a stressed-out new mum, right? Or is this a case of postpartum psychosis?
Interwoven into the chronology, however, seems to be a present-day court case involving Joanna – and therapy sessions which seem to indicate that, well, this is not a well woman we’re dealing with here. What the…?!
Towards the end of the episode, Joanna is getting her fingerprints taken at a police station. What’s she been arrested for?! Could she, shudder, have killed her own son? Joanna’s reaction to her three-month-old’s empty car chair was shock, worry, distress…. then something else.
We’re left with other niggling doubts. Alistair’s ex-wife Alex seems, well, suspect. In one scene, the camera lingers on the boot of her car with a pair of blue plastic gloves inside. What have they been used to do? And what of violent Chloe, Alex and Alistair’s daughter – who we find out has been hitting her teachers. Is she involved in Noah’s disappearance somehow?
In the eeriest moment of this bleak, uncomfortable episode, Joanne and Alistair’s house suddenly goes from empty to full. Why are we being told to believe nothing we see?
The last scene sees a horrifyingly calm Joanna and Alistair prepare for a TV interview, and as she walks on set, Alistair asks her, ‘Are you going to cry?’ But is this scene even real? Are they about to appeal for information on their baby boy?! Or is it a figment of one damaged mother’s mind?
Right now, we have frustratingly more questions than answers and I might need a stiff drink.
But meanwhile, The Cry’s depiction of the relentlessness of early parenthood is bang on the money. And Coleman is hypnotic as its frazzled young protagonist, unravelling in front of our very eyes.
I know what I’m watching next Sunday night…
The Cry, Sundays, 9pm on BBC One.
Did you tune in for The Cry episode 1? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!