The third installment of the Moving On anthology came from the least experienced writer on the series. So I was even happier that Drowning Not Waving, by Sarah Deane, was the strongest story so far. Ellie (played by Christine Tremarco) has money problems. This is quickly established with a series of visuals culminating in putting her house up for sale. There's been a lot of that in Moving On - did no one hear about the property slump! But actually I am being facetious because the script uses this to its advantage. Ellie is desperate, so when former school bad boy John Mulligan re-enters her life and offers to buy her house and rent it back to her, even though there are better property deals to be had for him, she finds it hard to refuse.
Although she is wary at first about what he is really after, and declares she is not for sell too, he won't take no for an answer. And after he turns up on her doorstep with a takeaway and an apology, they end up in bed. There's a slight misunderstanding when she answers his mobile to someone called Tracy, but later he tells her that she's his sister, and that he's not playing around cos he really fancies her. But when Ellie's friend, Maria, hears she is seeing John, she reacts badly. She tells Ellie that if she continues seeing John and sells him her house, she never wants to see her again. At first I thought Maria's explosion was another one of these Moving On escalations in drama that seems out of pace and proportion. But the difference this time was that it became clear where this had come from and what motivated it. It turns out that Maria also knew John from school and says everyone knows he's made his money from drug deals not property deals. This I could understand. No one would want their mate getting involved with anything like that and it worked as an effective midpoint.
Ellie confronts John who insists he dealt for a few months when he was sixteen, he's not proud of it and doesn't now. Moreover, he and Maria had a brief affair a year ago and he left her, so now this is her jealousy motivated revenge. When Ellie confronts Maria, she admits to the affair but maintains she was the one who ended it, because she learnt about his current drug dealing. Next Maria confronts John to warn him to stay away from her friend. This was a really cool scene because although John came across as someone maybe a little bit dangerous, it was done in such a way that either of them could've been telling the truth. It kept up the suspense nicely and you didn't know who to root for.
As Ellie and John prepare to go away to New York for a few days, he suddenly has to stay behind on business and will join her later. So she sets off to the airport on her own and during the car ride we get one of the now familiar Moving On flashbacks where we get a recap on some of the key scenes and dialouge from the story. The major difference this time is that it really felt Ellie was replaying the incidents in her head, and all of them now had new significance. Has he been playing her all this time? Sure enough, as she checks her luggage, she finds drugs hidden away. He was using her as a mule. It was really well written and actually reminiscent of that famous ending in The Usual Suspects!
In the next scene we find out John got sent down for five years and then rather bizarrely Ellie goes to see him in jail. He shows his true colours and tries to equate his drug dealing with her excessive debt inducing buying and makes her feel bad because he paid for her house with drug money. For her part, Ellie says she came to see him to see if she would feel anything, and the look on her face suggests she doesn't. There's a moment where John's bravado seems to falter as he realises he has failed. The story ends with Ellie moving out of the house and riding off with Maria, moving on...
I'm not sure the final couple of scenes worked for me and whether they were really necessary. In fact, it might have been cool to end it as Ellie discovers the drugs in her car and then gets arrested herself. But I'm not naive enough to think that this darker ending would've necessarily been appropriate in the middle of the afternoon. However generally speaking this was a well plotted, taut drama with excellent performances from the two leads. I've enjoyed watching Tremarco since her barnstorming performance in the excellent Faith a few years ago and feel she is better actress than the material she gets sometimes suggests. And Richard Armitage, in between trying to catch Russian spies and killing Robin Hood, is still the go to guy for dark brooding leads, and he gave a performance both charming and dangerous.
We often read and hear about people trumpeting new writers, only to find that the 'new' writers they are referring to have loads of soap or radio credits. Nothing wrong with that. Fair play to them. But it was really refreshing to see something from a writer, who although has other commissions on the go (according to her CV) this was still her first screen credit. I certainly look forward to seeing more of Sarah Deane's work.