TV Review – BEFORE WE DIE (2021)

BEFORE WE DIE (2021, UK) ***
Crime, Drama, Thriller

pr co. Caviar Films / DPG Media / Screen Flanders; net. Channel 4; exec pr. Walter Iuzzolino, Jo McGrath, Robert Franke, Bert Hamelinck; pr. Dimitri Verbeeck, Robin Kerremans; d. Jan Matthys; w. Matt Baker; ph. Seppe Van Grieken; m. Jeroen Swinnen; ed. Joris Brouwers; pd. Pepijn Van Looy; ad. Floris Van Looy, Melanie Light; cos. Jutta Smeyers; b/cast. 26 May 2021; r/t. 6 x 44m.

Lesley Sharp (Hannah Laing), Patrick Gibson (Christian Radic), Vincent Regan (Billy Murdoch), Rebecca Scroggs (Tina Carter), Toni Gojanovic (Davor Mimica), Ryszard Turbiasz (Zvonomir), Issy Knopfler (Bianca Mimica), Kazia Pelka (Dubravka Mimica), John O’Connor (Marcus), Tijmen Govaerts (Jovan), Rino Sokol (Pavle), Nisha Nyar (Fran), Tess Bryant (Rachel), Petar Cvirn (Stefan Vargic), Jonathon Sawdon (Darius), Bill Ward (Sean Hardacre), Steve Toussaint (Kane), Mickey Angelov (Andri Kabashi).

Detective Hannah Laing (Sharp) becomes deeply conflicted when she discovers her son (Gibson) is playing a crucial role as an undercover informant in a brutal murder investigation. Adapted from the 2017 Swedish TV series, this Channel 4 drama benefits from sure-handed central performances from Sharp and Gibson. The scenario of the mother/son and police/informer relationship may be manufactured to drive the drama, but the themes are explored by a taut script that unfortunately loses its credibility altogether during the final episode’s protracted, but admittedly neat, twist denouement. Gojanovich displays the necessary charisma to make the chief villain a three-dimensional character. The Bristol setting, however, feels at odds with the premise which would have sat more naturally with a bigger city location. Technical attributes are strong, with the story being nicely shot and the musical score, for once, complementary and not overly intrusive. The story ends where the first series of the Swedish version did, with some plot points remaining unresolved, before moving on to a second series.

PRESS REACTION:
The Guardian (Lucy Mangan): “…based on a Swedish series of the same name. It figures: viewing it felt exactly like watching something where all the important things had been lost in translation.” (**)
Independent(Sean O’Grady): “It’s the kind of bewilderingly complicated detective drama we’ve become used to, the sort where you can’t quite recall who’s doing what to whom, or why, but we still feel for the various complicated characters living their complicated lives.” (***)
Times(Carol Midgley): “sharp acting, but I don’t believe this monster mum.” (**)
Telegraph (Anita Singh): “…this crime thriller was patronisingly slow. Still, at least the actors provided some eye candy.” (**)
i (Emily Watkins): “The programme’s downfall was its occasional paint-by-numbers narrative beats, and there were a few too many coincidences. Still, it was terribly good fun – let’s say exemplary of a newly coined genre, Bristol Noir.  (***)