Southcliffe is a stunning new four part drama from Warp Films (This is England, The Stone Roses: Made of Stone) for Channel 4 penned by award-winning writer Tony Grisoni (Red Riding, The Unloved) and directed by Sean Durkin (Martha Marcy May Marlene – winner of Sundance Film Festival Directing Award) in his British television debut.
Starring a wealth of British talent from stage and screen including Rory Kinnear (Black Mirror), Eddie Marsan (Tyrannosaur), Shirley Henderson (Anna Karenina) and Sean Harris (Prometheus) Southcliffe tells the story of a fictional English market town devastated by a spate of shootings which take place over a single day; a tragedy that has ripped apart the community. The inexplicable chain of events at the dark heart of this four-part mini-series shatters time and space for Southcliffe’s inhabitants.
Further names include rising stars Kaya Scodelario (Wuthering Heights), Joe Dempsie (Game of Thrones), Anatol Yusef (Boardwalk Empire) and Nichola Burley (Wuthering Heights).
Commissioned by Channel 4’s Head of Drama, Piers Wenger, the drama explores tragedy, grief, responsibility and redemption seen through the eyes of a journalist (Kinnear) returning to the small town of his childhood, and those closest to the victims of the tragedy. Violence and sudden bereavement confronts the residents of Southcliffe with emotions they are unequipped to understand or deal with; testing their resilience as individuals and as a community.
Writer Tony Grisoni says; “Southcliffe is a fictional market town inhabited by fictional characters, but with similarities to many actual people and places in Britain today. Invisible people, anonymous places. Rather than analyse or moralise about our characters’ actions, we share in them. Southcliffe is an anthem to ordinary people’s ability to reinvent themselves in the face of ultimate darkness.”
Piers Wenger adds; "Tony Grisoni's unique ability to convey the darkness and subtleties of human behaviour is in full evidence in these four brilliant scripts and I'm delighted that Warp Films and Tony found a world class director like Sean Durkin to bring them to life."
Directed by Sean Durkin in his British television drama debut, produced by Peter Carlton and Derrin Schlesinger for Warp Films and Sophie Gardiner for Channel 4. Southcliffe was filmed in the UK and broadcast on Channel 4 in 2013.
Episode One “Hollow Shore”
As dawn breaks in the sleepy market town of Southcliffe, the unmistakable sound of gunshots ring out. The residents of this tight-knit community wake to discover an inconceivable horror has devastated the town. The lives of those left behind are changed forever. Up to this point, these are small lives marked by ordinary adversity. Stephen Morton (Sean Harris) is a loner who cares tenderly for his dying mother, Queenie, in their meagre end-of-terrace house. Chris Cooper (Joe Dempsie) is a soldier returning home from Afghanistan to his doting wife, Louise (Hayley Squires). Paul Gould (Anatol Yusef) is an arrogant pub landlord who carelessly disregards the efforts of his handyman, Morton. Claire Salter (Shirley Henderson) is a committed social worker, carer to Queenie, consumed by her own private anxieties. On this morning, a spree-killer suddenly and randomly commits a spate of shootings, leaving the innocent residents of Southcliffe faced with emotions they are unequipped to understand or deal with. Questions, guilt and ghosts from the past are unleashed as their resilience is tested, both as individuals and as a community. Reporter David Whitehead (Rory Kinnear), a journalist who grew up in Southcliffe, finds himself back there looking for answers from the shattered community whilst trying to reconcile dark events from his own past.
Episode Two “Lights Falls”
The deceits, the longings and desires of the people of Southcliffe are revealed in the days leading up to the shooting. Betrayal comes casually to Paul (Anatol Yusef) who barely hides his affair with a much younger woman despite having a newborn baby with his loyal wife. Caring comes naturally to Claire (Shirley Henderson) but her efforts at work are becoming exhausted by pressures at home. She and her husband, Andrew (Eddie Marsan), are worried about the void that will be left behind when their only child, Anna (Kaya Scodelario), leaves home to go abroad. For all of these people life turns in a second. Each is forced through their loss to come to terms with how easily they took their loved ones for granted. But the reality of grief has not yet fully descended on them.
Reporter David (Rory Kinnear) is haunted by childhood memories of his hometown and is reluctant to return to Southcliffe. His own experience growing up there gives him a version of events which is dangerously subjective. It becomes clear he knew the killer, Morton (Sean Harris) many years ago. Feelings of guilt and responsibility provoke a deep-rooted resentment in David towards the grieving community.
Episode Three “Sorrow’s Child”
As the onset of trauma ravages Southcliffe the families of the dead are each immersed in their own struggle to comprehend the fallout. Grief isolates them from themselves, their loved ones and the community. For Claire (Shirley Henderson), it is simply too hard to confront. She cannot accept her daughter’s death. Paul (Anatol Yusef), in his mourning, desperately tries to compensate for the bad husband and father that he has been. In his denial, he fulfills a promise to his wife - only too late. Each succumbs to their own private madness. For some of them, there will be no return.
David’s (Rory Kinnear) secret about his childhood friendship with Morton (Sean Harris) is beginning to take hold of him. His marriage is falling apart. His job is on the line as he becomes insistent on finding an answer to why this happened. The more he imposes his own explanation, the more the residents reject it. He is at risk of becoming himself a victim of the tragedy. In a bitter outburst in the local pub, David claims that Southcliffe is complicit through their apathy. Conspiracy theories surrounding police cover-ups feed into David’s personal paranoia.
Episode Four “All Souls”
One year on – an anonymous letter sent to David (Rory Kinnear) reawakens the threat that Morton (Sean Harris) is still alive and returning to Southcliffe. Now living alone in a bedsit, David takes the letter as a sign to revisit his hometown and confront his past. He finds a town that is just the same – the same shops, same pubs, same people strolling the streets. But in other ways things have changed. Claire (Shirley Henderson) is beginning to inhabit her memories, spiraling into despair, her husband Andrew (Eddie Marsan) must rescue her.
Bumping into Chris (Joe Dempsie), David can see he looks haunted by what happened. Then when he discovers an intruder has broken into his hotel room, he senses the direction of a new threat. Has the darkness that compelled Morton come to possess Chris? David appeals to Chris’s family for help, only to be met by their resentment and hostility. Now David realises only he can prevent tragedy revisiting Southcliffe.