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'The Cry' is a Taut, Disturbing Psychological Thriller
November 8, 2018  | By David Hinckley

The Cry may be the most gripping and unsettling portrayal of a woman on the edge since the first season of The Sinner.

The Cry, a four-episode Brit series that becomes available Thursday on the streaming service Sundance Now, stars Jenna Coleman (top) as Joanna Lyndsay, a schoolteacher who becomes the most reluctant of celebrities after a shocking incident involving her family and child.

Coleman, who is best known at the moment as Queen Victoria from the PBS series that resumes in January, plays Joanna as a woman trapped by the cumulative effect of a hundred frustrations.

When we meet her, the fame nightmare is already underway. It’s primarily through flashbacks that we learn its genesis, through Joanna’s conversations with psychologist Dr. Wallace (Shauna Macdonald).

Joanna was an unassuming schoolteacher taking her grade-school class on a field trip to a local government office when Alistair Lyndsay (Ewen Leslie, left), the glib spokesman for a  high-ranking government official, noticed her and commenced pursuit.  

We eventually learn he has an ex-wife, Alexandra (Asher Keddie), and a teenage daughter, Chloe (Markella Kavenagh, below). They now live in Australia, where Alex took Chloe after the split.

Alex and Chloe both have significant issues, though neither seems villainous. They’re more like people just trying to make it to the end of each day. They also figure prominently in the central drama.  

Those who read the book on which the series is based, Helen FitzGerald’s The Cry, will find that Jacquelin Perske’s TV script keeps the central themes intact while letting them unfold slowly and ominously.

This is also one of those stories where viewers don’t know much more than the characters about the backstory behind the central event. We all learn as the show goes along.

So while it’s clear Joanna has been traumatized, Coleman keeps open the possibility that some of her actions have an element of calculation. This makes her more elusive as well as more interesting dramatically.

Alistair likewise has several potential motives for his actions, some selfish and some well-intended and innocent.

We do know part of Joanna’s problem stems from the simple and depressing real-life fact that some serious issues are not taken seriously because they are seen as "women’s complaints," and therefore either exaggerated or insignificant.

That includes postpartum depression and a feeling of being overwhelmed by new motherhood. Rather than being given added support, women like Joanna are often told to deal with it while the rest of the world rolls over and goes back to sleep.

The Cry suggests that while shocking events may seem to come out of nowhere, they almost always incubate through a long series of private events often so small they barely register even with the people involved.

In the case of Joanna Lyndsay, we don’t even learn the nature of the shocking event itself for some time. We only sense that something happened. Other answers unspool slowly, like yarn off a large ball.

The Cry is a good yarn.

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