DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

Contributors

ALEX STRACHAN

MIKE HUGHES

KIM AKASS

MONIQUE NAZARETH

ROGER CATLIN

GARY EDGERTON

TOM BRINKMOELLER

GERALD JORDAN

NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
'Isolation Stories' Have Come from Britain to Britbox
July 13, 2020  | By Mike Hughes
 


As Americans poked around at the idea of social-distance drama, some Englishmen went full-throttle.

They created four separate tales. Now Isolation Stories reached the U.S. last month via subscription streaming service Britbox.

Each story is only 15 minutes long but stuffed with powerful drama. Individually, most are terrific; combined, well, they need a bit more variety.

With four stories, it would have been possible to sample a full spectrum of isolation – from rage and regret to love and laughter. Instead, Isolation mostly sticks to the dark side.

At least it does it beautifully, with sharp writing and subtle performances.

The idea started with writer Jeff Pope, an Academy Award nominee for Philomena (2013). His own family had just recovered from COVID-19 – mild for Pope and his two kids, but severe for his wife, who was almost hospitalized.

Pope brought three additional writers onto the project to create the four stories, then had each one shot under England's strict social-distancing rules. Only members of a household were in a room together. Often, that left spouses to hold the camera (with a director, watching via Zoom, offering suggestions in an earpiece).

Since Darren Boyd was living alone, he used a stationary camera, which made sense for his character's video chat with a psychiatrist.

Robert Glenister and his son Tom played a father (raging with bitterness as his fever grew) and son; Eddie Marsan did his story with his two sons. That left their wives – Celia Glenister and Janine Marsan – as one-person camera crews.

Marsan's story also required another actor – an older man outside the window. That was complicated by a rule limiting travel for everyone and banning it entirely for anyone 70 or older; the role went to David Threlfall, 66, who lived nearby.

Then there was Sheridan Smith (top), playing someone alone and eight months pregnant. Her fiancé held the camera; their baby was born May 9, five days after the episode aired in England.

Smith's episode happens to be the most fully formed: It starts with mild humor, dips into stark agony, then rebounds with a sense of hope. Smith, a singer/actress, handles it all superbly.

Then the darkness returns, in the other three stories. The strongest moment (via the Glenisters) has a feverish man mutter about his no-good son – unaware that he's talking to that son.

Each story grasps for a tiny glimmer of hope. As the pain grows, we wish the glimmers were less tiny.

Some of these actors will be familiar to American viewers. Marsan was Ray's brother in Ray Donovan; Boyd was Eve's crooked ex-boss in the first year of Killing Eve.

But most are better known in England. Threlfall was the shameless Frank Gallagher in the original, British version of Shameless.

And they are remarkably talented. They breathe life into intense dramas shot in their homes.

 
 
 
 
 
Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 
 Name (required)
 
 Email (required) (will not be published)
 
RVQJM
Type in the verification word shown on the image.