Boat Story review – Daisy Haggard’s hilariously dark drama is worthy of Tarantino or the Coen brothers
The success of Daisy Haggard is a rare glimmer of hope amidst the darkness, a small piece of evidence that we can still enjoy good things. In the past four to five years, since her role as Myra Licht in the unfortunate comedy Episodes, she has been a key figure in two emotionally complex comedy-dramas (Breeders and Back to Life, which she co-created and co-wrote). She now stars alongside Paterson Joseph in Boat Story, a six-part series with a simple title that doesn’t do justice to its brilliant combination of cleverness, style, and originality, which will undoubtedly boost the resumes of everyone involved.
Authored by the siblings Jack and Harry Williams (known for producing Back to Life and creating acclaimed dramas like The Tourist, Baptiste, and The Missing), this narrative has a straightforward concept: what actions would you take upon discovering a hidden fortune that is up for grabs?
Here, that fortune is millions of pounds’ worth of cocaine, discovered in a boat washed up on the beach of a northern English coastal town. The skipper-smuggler was killed by a corrupt police officer when a karmic wave took him off his feet and on to a fatal protrusion.
Samuel (Joseph), a lawyer specializing in criminal cases, and Janet (Haggard), a worker in a factory, stumbled upon the boat. Janet immediately wanted to inform the authorities while Samuel saw it as a stroke of luck from the universe.
There are two important things to note. Firstly, Samuel has recently lost all of his savings due to gambling and organized a move and job change from London without his wife’s knowledge in order to begin paying off his debts. Secondly, Janet has recently suffered the loss of her fingers in an accident at work and was unfairly denied compensation by her manager. This raises more questions. Do either of them deserve these circumstances? Does the universe owe us anything? How much strain can our moral judgment handle before it begins to falter?
In a more realistic sense, it must be considered if it is possible to acquire a large amount of cocaine without drawing any attention from others, particularly the owner. The scene shifts to a men’s clothing store in Paris where we are introduced to the Tailor (played by Tchéky Karyo, also known as Baptiste), who appears to be a respectable gentleman but is actually a ruthless drug dealer. We witness him brutally torturing and murdering those who have betrayed him in extremely disturbing ways.
After that, the story becomes more humorous, intense, morally intricate, emotionally touching, stylistically intriguing, and captivating. The plot brings to mind Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson (especially in the screenplay where Janet is described as “a woman with blue hair, driving towards a Thursday” in voiceover), and the Coen brothers in its skillful blending of different genres. This is done with a self-assuredness that avoids cheap tricks and elevates the show beyond its individual elements.
The true nature of things is never quite as it appears. Take, for example, the arrival of the Tailor in search of his lost delivery. He unexpectedly finds himself enamored with Yorkshire and a woman who manages a bakery (the quietly superb Joanna Scanlan). The unexpected turns keep the story feeling new and captivating.
We have yet to reach the introduction of Phil Daniels, who plays a would-be writer and former client of Samuel. The following play-within-a-play element is surprisingly satisfying. (The production is actually a musical that fearlessly rhymes “insomnia” with “orphan in Bosnia”, making it worth the cost of a ticket on its own.)
Joseph is portrayed as a remarkable individual whose optimism and charisma are unable to mend the fractures in his life. In a role tailored for her by those who recognize her ability to bring depth to mundane characters, Haggard captivates the audience with Janet and her destiny, no matter how bizarre the situations or corrupt her moral compass may be.
The tale of Boat Story skillfully manages a risky amount of tasks, yet manages to keep them all going without any difficulty. This is a success due to its logic, sensitivity, and charm. I admire it. We are able to possess pleasant possessions.