Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Being Human – review (TV)

Director: Declan O’Dwyer

Release Date: 2008

Contains spoilers

This was a one off comedy drama produced for BBC 3 and aired for the first time last night. Although a one off, this certainly had room for expansion and, as you will see as I review it, I have hopes that a full series will follow.

The start of the drama leaves us in no doubt of what we are dealing with and is split between two of the main characters. We see George (Russell Tovey) going into the woods and stripping. As the night comes down and the full moon appears he transforms into a wolf. The change itself was very American Werewolf inspired, and that was no bad thing, subtly lighted it out-trumped many feature-budgeted transformations – kudos to the producers for that.

Interspersed with this are scenes of Mitchell (Guy Flannigan) sat with an off-duty nurse named Lauren (Dominique McElligott). When she leaves the room we see his eyes flick black and him struggle to maintain self-control. When she re-enters the room, she makes a none too subtle hint regarding bed. When together, he bites.

The next morning George wakes up at the top of a rock range, covered in blood and dirt with a half eaten deer carcass next to him. His run through a washing line, stealing clothes and sheets, is again reminiscent of American Werewolf to a degree (and again is no bad thing). He is spotted by the clothes' owner and he explains it was a stag night as he runs off. He is later picked up by Mitchell, who can go out in the day, but always wears shades.

Back at the hospital, where they both work unqualified jobs, Mitchell is a domestic and George is a Porter, they both have to deal with the aftermath of their condition. For Mitchell it is the body of Lauren – who has been given a death certificate that says heart attack – she is picked up by undertakers arranged by Mitchell, actually vampires. He fed her his blood, but doesn’t know if it was in time. It is clear that the other vampires look down on his friendship with George.

As for George, he has realised that his erstwhile fiancée Julia (Claire Foy) has been admitted due to an epileptic seizure. The problem is neither she or his family have seen him for two years and have assumed he is dead. Mitchell has decided to go on the wagon, as it were, and decided that it would be easier in a domestic setting – he and George should get a house.

They manage to find a reasonably priced house, the estate agent believing them to be gay (to Mitchell’s amusement and George’s chagrin) and the house is reasonably priced as other tenants have felt it to be creepy. In the scenes where we see the house made livable we get a real flavour of the two characters. George as eager as a puppy and Mitchell as aloof as a rock star, with maybe a hint of the character Withnail from 'Withnail and I'.

Mitchell has found a room in the basement of the hospital that is perfect for George’s transformation. Unused by anyone, the inner handle of the sealed isolation room has rusted off and the thick walls make it soundproof. However, at the house strange things are afoot. Things have moved and “Get Out” has been painted on the walls.

They find the source of the disturbances, Annie (Andrea Riseborough), a girl who had lived in the house until her untimely death. She is overwhelmed with happiness that she can be seen, George finds her presence disturbing and Mitchell recognises her immediately for what she is – a ghost. Annie seems tied to the house, to the point of agoraphobia.

Unfortunately, on a night when Mitchell has to attend a vampire meeting, it is a full moon and Julia follows George into his isolation room. Mitchell has left his phone at home and the only one who could possibly save the girl is the agoraphobic ghost…

The drama does not offer very much in the way of lore. We see that Mitchell is not a typical vampire, and this is illustrated when we meet the reborn Lauren who know seems as cold as ice. The vampires themselves are contemplating coming out of the shadows and taking their rightful place as leaders. We also discover, after giving the Hollywood lie to George, that Annie and Mitchell know the true secret of death; at the end of the corridor of light are men with sticks and ropes.

However the true power of this was not in story, which all told was fairly simple, offering hints of bigger things that could be expanded on in a full series. It was in the acting and the dialogue. All three main actors brought their characters to life wonderfully and the characters were all so very different and yet complimented each other beautifully, as though none of them could truly be whole without the others. All the support performances were good as well and we should mention Adrian Lester as vampire leader Herrick who made understated sinister an art and would prove to be a great character, I am sure, should this go to full series. The comedy was subtle, this was not sit-com land, and it worked so well because of it.

Well worth seeing – I hope this gets exported out of the UK for others to see as it was a marvellous way to spend an hour. Well shot, with effects kept to a minimum and thus well done when used, this was a wonderful little programme. 8 out of 10. Encore.

The imdb page is here.


Ian said...

Yes, rather good overall. A nice little team amalgamated once the ghost became active, though one suspects nods to Mrs Doyle from Father Ted are in order as well as a wee bit of homage to Friends-like banter in the 'centralperk'-pub near the end of the piece. I suspect if this goes to series the wind up to each episode will be in the pub snug, followed by a coda to reveal the next episode as in this.

I note that as well as daywalking, Mitchell and the other vampires cast reflections in the mirrors of the club they meet at. One suspects that there is a totally natural explanation to them, reinforced by refrences to the children of Darwin and evolution throughout. Further I understand that George's lycanthropy might have a natural 'viral' cause... 'something old' he refers to it as...which leaves me slightly puzzled regarding the ghost in the overall context of the piece. Would be interesting to see how it plays out... certainly gets my vote over Phoo Action.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

cheers Ian - I suspect that the points you've raised may well be answered should this go to series

Anonymous said...

I was also impressed! About time the UK got some high quality programming onto our screens!

Such a great premise, great visual effects and a very promising line up of actors. I can see this show doing great if given the chance that it deserves!!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

thanks for the comment Rabba

Toby O'B said...

Hey there! Greetings from Toobworld!

Just watched this on YouTube, after reading about it going to series in the UK. I'm just sorry it'll be losing Guy Flanagan as Mitchell and Andrea Riseborough as Annie. I never like recastaways.

Still, it looks like something I hope the BBC-A picks up should it go to series.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Toby, welcome to the blog. It is definitely picked up but not only are there the personnel changes but the pilot is shelved and nothing in it should now be treated as cannon. However, I still have hopes for the series, which has just started being trailered on BBC 3

Anonymous said...

I've Got To Say, That I MUCH Prefer Aidan Turner As Mitchell To Guy Flanagan. I've Always Found Vampires Really Sexy, And Irish Accents Too (:

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Jess, fair enough... I think they play very different characters. Flannigan had the rock star, almost Withnail vampire down pat - and that was great - Turner plays a more pathos filled character - again great in its own way.

chiffmonkey said...

I think this is a great series, very in the style of joss whedon (buffy the vampire slayer, firefly). It just seems like george's character has already used up all available plots. (get bit, meet biter). only thing left is to be a biting suspect :p

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Hi Chiffmonkey - of course you are referring to the series currently running. I think the meet biter storyline from ep 2 worked in the concept that it juxtaposed George meeting the one who created him with Mitchell meeting the one he created.

In both cases the one out of our supernatural nuclear family was unpleasant for one reason or another. Where they will now take George will hopefully be interesting and not fall stale - but only time will tell and, as you intimate, there is a danger that this might happen.

Many thanks for your comment

Rooksmoor said...

I never saw the one-off only this series, but from what I can gather all the actors have changed. I was also expecting a comedy but this is much more serious. However, I welcome that.

Coming back to the issue we discussed around 'Ultraviolet', it is interesting that the vampires despite being immune to daylight are not only invisible in mirrors but also on video. I do not know how that works for the vampire Herryk (good Viking name) who is a police officer. Alarmingly he reminds me precisely of an old neighbour of mine.

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Rooksmoor, Russell Tovey - George the werewolf - remains the same but all other actors have changed and the series is a lot less comedy and a lot darker - neither a good or bad thing, just different.

We will see some full on mirror impact in the next episode to air, but one does wonder how they have not been spotted (by their absence), what with all the CTTV etc, when they work such public jobs

Taliesin_ttlg said...

incidentally - they did cast reflections in the pilot, as Ian mentions in the first comment