Review: Low Winter Sun

When ‘Low Winter Sun‘ was billed as a “dark” drama I assumed they meant the plot was sinister, or the characters were nasty pieces of work.  Well, all that was true.  What I didn’t expect that it would all be so dark.  I mean, the action starts off in the cellar of a Chinese restaurant that’s lit by two piddling little strip lights way up on a barrelled roof that appears to be made from black bricks.  The main protagonists, Frank Agnew (Mark Strong, pictured) and Joe Geddes (Brian McCardie) are standing on dark flagstones and the light from the strips is being sucked into the walls by some mysterious force.  It doesn’t get any better from there…

Outside in the dark streets, it’s pissing down with rain; when the boys trundle Brendan McCann’s body into the Forth, it’s still night.  Even the next day when the body is found, the daylight can’t quite make it through the steely grey cloud cover and the hours of meagre daylight fly by – when the CID team turn up it’s already gloaming (just thought I’d throw in a subtle Scottish tone there – “gloaming” – I tell you, it’s quality stuff this).  Even the interview rooms looked as though they were lit with a single candle.  The police offices were gloomy inside despite bright sunlight painting the buildings across the street!  If you could film in black light, these guys would’ve done it.

I must watch too many crime and forensic dramas, because the minute Agnew tugged on McCann’s dead wrists, breaking them, to make it look like he’d struggled to free himself from the handcuffs holding him to the steering wheel, I said, “that’s a mistake.  The guy’s dead…there won’t be any internal bleeding from those wounds.”  You’ll be pleased to know there’s a job for me in the morgue.  It took barely half an hour before the forensic pathologist was scratching his head saying he couldn’t understand why there was no internal bleeding to the wrists.  But that was the least of Agnew and Geddes’ problems.

Rarely have I seen a drama where the main characters have so few redeeming features.  In Agnew’s case he’s been convinced to help kill a man (Geddes’ ex-partner McCann) he hasn’t had that much to do with, on the strength of a six-week relationship, by Geddes who knows he’s implicated in a police complaints investigation centred on McCann.  Geddes has told him that not only had McCann picked Agnew’s new girlfriend up from a brothel and had sex with her, he’d subsequently killed her while Geddes was forced to watch.  So they got the guy drunk at his party, held him under water in a bath of lobsters – sea water you’ll notice, these guys think they’ve covered all the angles – cuffed him to his car and rolled him into the sea.

And if you thought that was complicated, you ain’t seen nothing yet.  The car had another body in the boot.  Not only was this body headless and handless, but Geddes knew it was headless and handless because he’d watched McCann taking them off – in the bathroom of Geddes’ own flat, where McCann had just shot the guy through the head.  No wonder the investigators didn’t find any blood at McCann’s flat.  It gets worse – Agnew’s girlfriend Sinada wasn’t killed – she escaped through the window while Yeung’s head was coming off.  Geddes just said she’d been killed to convince Agnew to murder McCann.

Agnew isn’t best pleased when he discovers that little snippet.  In fact he’s so not pleased he hospitalises Geddes, creating the opportunity for some of the most surreal mashed-face makeup of recent times.

Some excellent black humour crept into the saga when Geddes lets on to Agnew that he needs to visit his flat.  It’s now that Agnew discovers the blood stained floor, bathroom and bedroom, where Yeung’s brains have been fired up a very big wall (high ceilings in these old Ediburgh apartment buildings).  He finds the head in a bag too, and is just about to leave with it when he meets DI Westwood on the stairs.  He has to bluff that the bag contains a few bits Geddes needs in hospital, and as Westwood is heading there to see Geddes he offers to take the bag.  But Geddes has already checked out and gone back to headquarters, where Westwood eventually catches up with him and hands the bag over.  Dark farce: excellent stuff.

Excellent stuff all round actually.  Well plotted, well written, superbly acted by the whole cast.  The dark filming, despite my earlier fun with it, fits the mood of the piece perfectly and the twists and turns of the convoluted story keep you guessing all the way through.  Part two next week, unless you watched it on More4.

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