Generally speaking I was really quite excited to watch the 7:39. It is BBC, written by the acclaimed novelist David Nicholls and staring some of the best actors the UK currently has to offer. The trailer looked good and had more sexual tension than you could shake a stick at. I like sexual tension on the screen, it is hard to create, it requires your stars to have chemistry and it is always in danger of slipping into the dangerous ‘cheesy’ zone. One thing I am not a big fan of is adultery which is kind off what this two part drama was about but I was interested to see how the subject was tackled.
There are some really great stories out there about cheating but it is hard to get right. As a viewer I need good reasons for the characters to be thinking about cheating, I need to feel the passion, the explosiveness, the undeniable lust. Unfortunately for the 7:39 it doesn’t quite achieve this, its excuses were rather feeble and it slipped uncomfortably into the cheesy.
So where did it all go wrong? Well from the beginning, you see there was nothing here that surprised me. Carl (David Morrissey) is a middle aged married man with two kids. His wife (Olivia Colman) doesn’t take him seriously, his children don’t appreciate him. He has a job in the city that he hates with a moron boss that has clearly watched too much apprentice. In short Carl is a walking, talking mid-life crisis. Every morning he catches the 7:39 train into London to go to his boring job and every day the journey is the same until one day gym manager Sally (Sheridan Smith) joins the morning commute. A flirtation starts and it all gets a little predictable.
I get it they are bored and disenchanted with life. They are fed up with the cards they have been dealt and having that despair in common is almost magical. As sad as it seems it is really nice to know that there is someone out there that is as miserable as you are. To begin with the flirtation was cute, Carl’s blatant crush on Sally was sweet and a little dorky and he didn’t have the faintest idea how to play it cool which was refreshing.
Then after the flirtation and the will they won’t they moments they start an affair. It is this precise moment that I started to go seriously off this show. Although it is wrong I can kind off see why Sally became an adulterer. She is engaged to Ryan (Sean Maguire) who is a personal trainer and full time moron. I found little to like about this guy, he was a wet blanket who always had to do the sensible thing. No eating junk food, no alcohol, no fun of any kind what so ever. He was extremely enthusiastic about being practical and it was no wonder that Sally wanted to run a mile from him.
Carl however is a different story, he falls down the ‘is it love or obsession’ road and it does him no favours. He came across as a little obsessive, a little out of control, a lot mid-life crisis. This affair distracts him so much he ends up losing his job! Then when the shit hits the fan and his wife finds out his excuses are awful, it was so abundantly clear that he didn’t give a shit. There was no grovelling, no real apologising just the blank gaze of man that doesn’t really understand he has done wrong. At least be sorry! At least care about your wife and children! Just do something! Carl, in fact does very little.
It wasn’t all negative, the acting was great. I thought Morrissey and Smith were pretty strong and there was lots of chemistry between them. Olivia Coleman was, as always, exceptional. It really is a shame that she wasn’t given more to do in this because when she is given room she made this a million times more interesting than it actually was.
The great acting aside I came out of this not really knowing why I had bothered. The ending was pretty boring, the affair was short lived and easily forgotten and everyone just went back to normal after it. They got their happy endings which I am not all that sure Carl deserved.
On paper the 7:39 was a great concept and it had a lot going for it. I think it wanted to be profound but I took very little from it and in the end it was the longest two hour train ride I have been on for quite a while.