River (2015)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on August 2, 2021 @ tonymacklin.net.

On rare occasions, a film comes along that has an incredible performance, but it remains basically unrecognized. No one sees it.

River is an example of such a hidden treasure. Stellan Skarsgard gives an incredible gem of a performance in the 6-episode British television series. Skarsgard portrays John River, a psychologically-damaged Detective Inspector in a London police department.

He sees dead people - he calls them "manifests."

It's a clever premise, but Skarsgard takes it to levels of melancholic humanity that are both absurd and credible. His character is outrageous, but has moments of subtlety. He has a dour expression, but breaks it with smiles and engaging laughter. He is contemplative, and awry. It is a fitful, wayward journey into the soul.

What aids Skarsgard greatly is the chemistry provided by Nicola Walker. She plays his longtime partner on the force, whose death transports him into a harrowing search for meaning. She accompanies him on his fateful quest.

Adeel Ahtar, as Detective Sergeant Ira King, adds a quality of calm reality as River's new partner, and Lesley Manville is believable as a Detective Chief Inspector under pressure.

The creator and writer of River is Abi Morgan (Abigail Louise Morgan), a gifted Welsh writer, who gets us to suspend our disbelief. It has sometimes struck me that women do not always write credible dialogue for males - at times having them say what they would never say. They write what they want them to say rather than what they would say.

Abi Morgan is not one of them. She is a marvel - making John River fanciful but transcendent and credible. It's an admirable feat.

River has three directors: Richard Laxton directed the first two episodes; Tim Fywell directed the next two; and Jessica Hobbs directed the last two. The trio keep the writing and acting seamless.

River veers into crudity, but it goes far beyond it.

The conclusion equals the wonderful uplift of Another Round (2020). It is exaltant. And unforgettable.

So is the performance by Stellan Skarsgard. It's one of a kind.

© 2000-2023 Tony Macklin