DGC 2017 OUTSTANDING DIRECTORIAL ACHIEVEMENT IN MOVIES FOR TELEVISION AND MINI-SERIES
Holly Dale / Mary Kills People / The River Styx
"If you have only an hour to watch TV this weekend, my suggestion is MARY KILLS PEOPLE, it’s for a Good Reason." NYTimes
“Mary Kills People,” a six-episode series is a provocatively compelling and occasionally nail-biting tale of an emergency-room doctor, Mary Harris who is secretly running an assisted-suicide operation for patients who are terminally ill starring “Hannibal’s” Caroline Dhavernas. All six hours directed by Holly Dale. Washington Post
YOU THINK LIFE IS MILD NORTH OF THE BORDER?
Bu Alessandra Stanley
Any lingering illusion that Canada is a milder, blander version of the United States is dispelled by “Durham County,” a Canadian-made crime series that begins on Monday on the Ion network.
It takes a while to realize that this scary, well-made thriller was not made in America. “Durham County” has all the signposts of a Hollywood production: lush theme music and stark cinematography, a brooding homicide detective, barbaric rapes and murders, philanderers, sociopaths, yoga moms and alienated teenagers.
But the landscape, chosen for the forests of electrical power lines that forebodingly crosshatch the horizon, is hard to place, and some of the accents have a slightly unusual lilt. Mostly, though, it’s the violence that comes with an unfamiliar inflection.
Nothing is too gory for American television. Even the more lighthearted procedurals like “NCIS” and “Bones” zoom in on dismembered limbs, maggot-covered corpses and swollen, rotting bellies. Most American crime dramas punch up brutality with musical scores and lurid sound effects: the squish of a knife to the stomach, the crack of a fist on a jaw, the blast of a gun to the temple. This show, on the other hand, turns down the volume at those moments, and at times even averts the camera, which only amplifies the horror; viewers are stripped of a preconceived and familiar catharsis and left with savage acts that look all the more real for not being artistically enhanced.
And nothing on “CSI” or “Southland” is as disturbing as this program’s opening picnic scene. A pedophile hosts a fête champêtre for two teenagers in schoolgirl uniforms that turns into tragedy, all of it seen and uninterrupted by a voyeur hidden in the bushes.
“Durham County,” in short, is very, very creepy and unsettling, and entirely addictive, a modern murder mystery with a touch of Patricia Highsmith misanthropy. Even bystanders seem a little sinister, including the young children who play quietly while wearing masks of Japanese anime characters.
It’s an odd but promising choice for the little-known Ion, which only a few years ago was the Pax network, provider of wholesome family shows and reruns of “Growing Pains.” Ion is trying to appeal to more adult tastes with reruns of “Boston Legal” and “Criminal Minds.” This series appeals to grownups who prefer their crimes served fresh and with film noir understatement.
Mike Sweeney (Hugh Dillon, “Flashpoint”) is a Toronto homicide detective who has relocated to the suburbs to start a new life after his partner was killed and his wife, Audrey (Hélène Joy), developed breast cancer.
Audrey is in recovery, still wearing scarves and wigs, and hoping to rekindle her relationship with her husband and two daughters, particularly the estranged eldest, Sadie (Laurence Leboeuf), a teenager who hates their shabby housing development and dreams of becoming an investigator like her father. (As a hobby Sadie creates crime scenes in her dollhouse, molding tiny clay figures into bloodied murder victims.)
Sweeney thinks he is making a fresh start, but old troubles crop up wherever he goes, including in the form of his new neighbor, Ray Prager (Justin Louis), a onetime promising hockey star who went to high school with Sweeney and still bears a grudge. Prager is a narcissistic charmer who bullies his peppy, pretty wife and their shy, bookish son.
The six-episode series has already had two seasons in Canada, but it never gives viewers a reassuring sense that the hero will prevail. Nor does it amp suspense by withholding the killer’s identity; the viewer knows who did it, and the mystery is in how the detective will solve the case. A little like Helen Mirren in the British series “Prime Suspect,” Sweeney has enemies, but he is by far his own worst one.
“Durham County” evokes a world etched in uncertainty and suspicion, where a menacing atmosphere is darkened by a toxic environment and a hostile community. There is nothing gentle or folksy about it. It’s not what a lot of people think of when they think of Canada, but it’s a lot more intriguing.