The slick but slight BBC NI production finds its bearings and becomes compelling family drama
A small but significant realisation dawns upon us all at the start of the final episode of the three-part drama serial From There To Here: the characters, at last, feel real. People who once felt like little more than writer's constructs in an uncertain, tragic nostalgia piece now feel like fully fledged human beings.
These people are the rightly unsympathetic family and lover of Daniel Cotton, played by Philip Glenister, who are coming to unwelcome terms with his numerous lies. Mild heart attack or not, Daniel's affair, which led to another child, is out in the open, and wife Claire (Saskia Reeves) and mistress Joanne (Liz White) justly let him have it, in their own ways.
But villanizing Daniel would be all too easy. By now, one can consider the whole of From There To Here in retrospect and realise why Daniel is as he is. "Ever since the Arndale bomb", Daniel says, "it feels like one life isn't enough." And so it proved, when he met Joanne and began a damaging double life.
It does seem that Daniel's ambitious politician of a daughter (Morven Christie) and wannabe boardroom bandit of a son (Daniel Rigby) were too oppressive for him, and Joanne, much to her understandable fury ("It didn't matter whose lives you messed up as long as it was not your own!") was the "relief". One does not condone his behaviour – that would be impossible – but one does gain a invaluable insight into it. And Daniel is just one of many liars in this family circus that will eventually explode before quietening down to a bittersweet conclusion.
Yes, Peter Bowker's script needs a handful of obvious contrivances to make and reach its points, but by now the story moves along smoothly enough that these are no longer seriously problematic. With the time period having passed through New Labour's landslide victory in 1997 and the Millennium celebrations in 2000, From There To Here settles and becomes a compelling tale of immorality, mistrust and resolve. The setting and cultural references feel slightly indulgent as the family story takes centre stage, but again, they aren't really a problem.
From There To Here does fall short, however, when attempting to deal with corruption in drugs, business and gangsterism. In fairness to Bowker, these subplots don't feel tacked on, though one can't help but feel that he perhaps doesn't fully grasp these elements. He sometimes appears caught between trying to please his audience and be significant; there's actually some slightly preachy moralism that recalls Christopher Nolan's heavy handed "noble lie" of The Dark Knight.
Thankfully this is a minor aversion, and the strong cast, especially a regretfully reflective and persistent Glenister, are given plenty of room to be expressive, leading From There To Here to a surprisingly pleasing finale that wraps things up as well as could be expected.
Catch up with From There To Here on BBC iplayer.