Busy mother of two Jo (Indira Varma) has a lovely boyfriend in Danny (Luke Treadway). who has moved in to her suburban home and is adjusting to family life. On an otherwise normal day some mystery person drops a bombshell. On the school run Jo receives an anonymous text message alleging her boyfriend is having an inappropriate relationship with her 11-year-old daughter Katie.
We see Jo over the course of an agonising day sitting at home in an empty house, dwelling on the message, snooping around but getting no answers. Nothing really happens, but it all happens on Jo’s face thanks to Indira’s gut-wrenching acting. Danny is sexy, and it seems Katie and her friends have noticed judging by their comments on Instagram. Is Danny predatory? Worse still is Katie reciprocating? It’s a very uncomfortable thought but it’s close to how young women think. What is harassment? What is flattery? The lines are blurred when children are still learning the boundaries, and people can and will take advantage. “She’s at that age” is a catch-all for unusual teenage behaviour, but what if something unpleasant is provoking it?
These thoughts are racing through Jo’s head, and as there’s little dialogue the viewer fills in the gaps. The music is off-kilter and the close-ups of angry faces make you want to break eye-contact and look away from the screen. Jo’s house seems to be very gloomy and filled with shadows. As Jo tries and fails to confront Danny, he stands in the darkness but as soon as he moves into the light his golden hair shines and he looks like the perfect handsome boyfriend. Which is he? And why is Jo so loath to tell Danny what’s happened? On some deep level, does she suspect he could be capable of abuse?
Danny wants to keep this as private as possible – he’s worried about being arrested and losing his job. But Jo needs to speak to someone to keep from going crazy. She spills the beans to her friend and wisely she calls a help line. Also, really, she needs to tell the father of her children Des (Neil Maskell). But key to the tension played out, she can’t speak to Katie as she’s away with her father and avoiding her Mum as only a miserable teen can.
To avoid spoilers I won’t give you all the details but writer and director David Nath has produced a powerful, uncomfortable drama. It’s very personal and extremely timely. The final few scenes are open-ended which was to be expected but is slightly annoying. Jo seems to be satisfied that malicious motivations have been fully investigated but I think there are questions that remain unanswered. There’s too much silence and suspicion in this family. The takeaway message is that relationships are so precarious. How long does it take to know and trust someone, and can you ever truly know a person?
Unspeakable is available to watch now on All4