Broadchurch is a tightly knit community, a stunningly picturesque small town in Britain. A fairly tenured detective, Ellie, played by Olivia Colman has not handled a single murder case in her career, for the cozy town had never seen a murder. Such is the social sanctity of this town, which is shattered into fragments of grief. As an audience it aches to see the town fall apart. In the beautifully staged opening shot, we instantly get the amiable vibe of the town, in one single, uncut shot as Mark Latimer walks through the street, exchanging an unbroken chain of genuine greeting. This comforting everyday routine is jolted with a gush of unfathomable grief, as the Latimer family learns about the death of their 11 year boy. The possibility of someone in the town committing a murder seems implausible only until an outsider steps into the scheme of things and brings in quite an indifferent perspective to the investigation. This outsider is a Detective who failed a family, previously in a murder case.
The mystery in BroadChruch goes well beyond the murder and the murderer. The town is discovered to be a scenic secret keeper. For all the conspicuous aminity, we start to notice the pasts of these characters casting a skeptical shadow, on their present, which are accentuated by the current circumstances. The luxury of having mysteries of each character gives the show a lot to delve into, as familial frailties come to the fore, adding to the agony. Amidst the murder of the boy and a deeply agonizing dissection of the nobility of the people, the town tries to heal in the eery calmness of the full moon nights, as the high tides, try to wash away the misfortune. This Gothic imagery is used as an intimidating character with the largeness of the overbearing cliffs and the vastness of the Ocean, settling into your senses as the show moves forward. The treatment is dreamlike, with extreme close-ups of characters with handheld camera, constantly shifting focus, the constant shift from focus to soft focus creates a sense of fuzziness that accurately complements the detectives’ foggy understanding of the town, never quite being sure of anything or not sure where to look.
The fantastic acting performances are the heart and soul of the show. The oscillation between mutual warmth and uncanny discomfort among the people is portrayed beautifully by the entire cast. Olivia Colman is simply perfect as a timid detective. She plays Ellie with a certain physical vulnerability. Her detective partner is the painful Alec Hardy is deemed to have let down a family whose child was murdered. A mishap with the evidence in that case has forever scarred his reputation. David Tennant does not hold back from making the man unlikable. But the sincerity he displays in his investigation shines through, eventually. It is Jodie Whittaker who absolutely knocks it out of the park with her sterdy, yet extremely fragile performance as the mother of the deceased child, Beth Latimer. The grief of a child being killed is laden with anger and inexplicable frustration and her visceral pathos translates through the screen, into us.
The greatest achievement of the show lies in its use of Red herring. This writing technique is often used to distract the audience from predicting the big reveal but BroadChruch spins a web of brilliance around the red herring, for it might seem to be distracting you from the actual killer but while doing that, it carries a subtle insinuation as to who the killer is.
It works both ways, as it makes you look one way, it stealthily whispers in your ear, the actual truth, only we are too blind to notice it. The revelation of the killer is more an emotional wallop than a riveting discovery. The writers of the show refuse to leave anything at the surface level. The killer and his motive to kill is a thing to ponder upon. The show hardly ends once the murderer is caught. On the contrary, getting hold of the murderer sets of a swarm of questions that you will find yourself dwelling upon as the town recuperates in the warmth, by the ocean. The concept of love and its absurd, inscrutable meaning, leaves us all ever eluding and it is this elusion that dawns tragedy upon BroadChurch.