This article was originally published in The Courier on 24th May 2014.
From There to Here: Thursday, BBC One
If he has any sense, then Philip Glenister has no doubt long since accepted his professional destiny of playing taciturn, dry-witted men from Manchester. But typecasting isn’t necessarily a curse: never out of work, Glenister is the go-to guy for roles which require a certain amount of gruff, vinegary charm.
He delivered yet another variation on his usual shtick in From There to Here, in which he plays Daniel, a happily married businessman whose life is sent into tailspin following the IRA’s attack on central Manchester in 1996. Using a real-life event such as this to trigger fictional drama could easily come across as insensitive, but writer Peter Bowker obviously has a great deal of affection for the city.
It’s a tale of transformation, both physically and emotionally. Manchester underwent major redevelopment following the bombing: the notion of a city and nation being on the cusp of seismic change is one of Bowker’s underlying themes. Not that he explored it with much subtlety. Daniel’s father and son are depicted as capitalist caricatures, whose money-grabbing avarice are emblematic of the Thatcher/Major era that, in theory at least, is about to be undermined by the initial optimism of the New Labour years.
Set against the galvanising backdrop of Euro ’96, From There to Here is full of characters in search of meaning and stability. When the bomb went off, Daniel was trying in vain to reconcile his domineering father and black sheep brother. Following the blast, he had a chance encounter with Joanne, a female cleaner (Glenister’s Life on Mars co-star Liz White) who lives in the working-class area in which he spent the first few years of his life.
It transpired that Daniel was adopted when he was five, which has left him with the nagging feeling that he doesn’t truly belong anywhere. When he drove Joanne home, he impetuously decided to pose as a single man in need of companionship. Could this be the life he was destined to live all along?
Despite the fact that Daniel was effectively trying to start an extramarital affair, he still came across as fairly sympathetic. Glenister always tends to play outwardly confident characters with an underlying layer of vulnerability.
There was scope here for some thoughtful ruminations on the nature of identity, but Bowker undermined its promise with blatantly on-the-nose dialogue. Was it really necessary to have characters spelling out their inner thoughts and motivations with such clarity? Bowker is usually a safe pair of hands, but here he displayed an unfortunate disinclination to let the audience work things out for themselves.
We know he wants to make a point about how lives can change in an instant, and how a brush with death will put things in perspective, because Daniel and co kept reminding us.
Furthermore, the attempts at creating tension in the last few minutes just didn’t work at all. Even a football novice such as myself knows that England were knocked out following their penalty shoot-out against Germany, and there’s just no way that Daniel was killed in the bomb blast at his brother’s club. Or is that really the last we’ve seen of the star of TV’s latest Philip Glenister vehicle? I’m all for suspending disbelief, but you can’t mount a cliff-hanger on such an unlikely proposition.
In any case, what the hell was he doing with the bomb in his lap? Had he suddenly developed a death wish? It made not a jot of sense.
Laboured and unconvincing, From There to Here is a hefty disappointment.