Ever since Broadchurch in 2013, we’ve seen a surge in crime-thriller dramas. They are the boxset binge for those who have run out of period dramas and Downton Abbey. Time and time again these are unrealistic spending sprees on the part of a TV commissioner, and while they momentarily grip us from night to night, very few stick with us for long past the credits. This is certainly not the case for ITV’s new drama Too Close.
Despite many double page spreads in print media beforehand, little light has been shed on reviews and ratings that the three-part series achieved, which frankly seems surprising given the hype surrounding it.
Written by Clara Salaman and directed by Susan Tully, Too Close is a psychological thriller exploring just how easily a life can fall apart. The drama explores the relationship between Emma (Emily Watson) – a forensic psychologist -] and her latest patient, Connie (Denise Gough), who is accused of a horrific crime involving her daughter and the daughter of Connie’s best friend. Flashing back and forward in time, Connie recounts the events leading up to her driving her car into a lake, from her secret attraction towards her friend Ness (Thalissa Teixiera) and the breakdown of her marriage when she discovers that her husband and Ness are having an affair. Whether she’s being honest about amnesia of the crime or not isn’t clear until the final episode, and what a wait it is.
Salaman and Tully cleverly intertwine the lives of Connie and Emma, two figures who need to be kept on professional terms but whose pasts repeatedly pull them together. As viewers we drift in and out of feeling sorry for Connie and being horrified by her actions, such as wearing Emma’s jacket when she’s turned away, and stealing lighters from her bag. The relationship between these two leads is hard to watch and yet incredibly gripping, Emily Watson’s Emma handles a case too close to home with exceptional dignity, but the series also explores the long-term effects on psychologists and their mental health, especially when assessing criminals. Nothing feels unnecessary in this drama, with each break being inserted at exactly the right moment, each episode cut to leave the right amount of suspense and brewing in the audience. It is, in many ways, a perfectly conducted performance.
No matter the craft behind the scenes though, the selling point of Too Close is the acting. Emily Watson toes the thin line between dignified stiff upper lip and on the brink of unlocking her own demons in her marriage. Meanwhile, Thalissa Teixiera, a rising star in television (see Trigonometry on BBC iPlayer for an introduction to her work) is charismatic, sophisticated and at times flirtatious – a rebel without a cause pushing the boundaries of socially acceptable behaviour, and ultimately escaping this mess without a single scratch. The star of the series however has to be Denise Gough, a big name in theatre but often neglected in television and film; this is the first time I had ever seen her and was immediately entranced. Gough’s performance as Connie is a cocktail of narcissism, self-pity and Shakespearean monologue, but you cannot help feeling desperately sorry for her, especially when confronted with her original personality as a hippy mother-of-two writer before her breakdown. This is a drama that carefully charges emotions surrounding drug addiction and our values of familial bonds, ultimately tied together in a harrowing trilogy of episodes. It doesn’t make for comfortable watching, but leaves you ruminating why so few crime dramas are as good as this.
All three episodes of Too Close are available to watch on ITV Hub now.