Tasmania is just a little bit south of Denmark in Stan’s latest drama -thematically speaking, that is.
Writer Vicki Madden, who last intrigued us with The Kettering Incident, now brings a sense of foreboding to The Gloaming, planting it firmly into a Scandinoir genre. ‘Stan-dinoir’, perhaps…?
A snow-laden Mt. Wellington looms over the city of Hobart, the clouds are billowing over a windy landscape and there’s even a bridge, albeit without dead bodies laying across a border.
But there are bodies uncovered elsewhere, including at the bottom of a waterfall when Detective Molly McGee (Emma Booth) is called to a crime scene. Yet while Tasmania apparently likes to consider itself removed from the evils of the mainland, the corpse of a 62 year old woman bears a 20 year old student ID card belonging to a girl who was murdered in 1999. I guess not so removed, after all…
At the time the girl was on a spooky mountain hike with a young Alex O’Connell (Ewen Leslie), who is now a Melbourne-based detective sent back to Tassie against his will, to assist with this latest crime. This sees him partnered with Molly, with whom he has unfinished romantic business….
Meanwhile there’s a nasty -aren’t they always nasty?- property developer (Martin Henderson) who has big plans for the city but is also under suspicion by Molly. And with talismans and things that go bump in the night, there’s a constant sense of cults and witchery. Blame it all on ‘the MONA effect’ perhaps, which is referred to by Inspector Grimshaw (Aaron Pedersen) as reverberating change across the state.
Youth such as Freddie (Matt Testro) and Daisy (Markella Kavanagh) escape reality via substances and a few of the locals make hushed phone calls when secrets are at risk of emerging -watch out for a duplicitous Rena Owen as local charity centre manager, Grace.
The Gloaming, which artfully refers to a space in between light / dark, death / rebirth, is indeed a slow-burner that keeps its cards close to its chest. Themes of grief and resolution enveloped by an island with a long, grim past are happily exploited here.
Director Michael Rymer dives deep into a chilly, wintery southern city where everybody is rugged up and lingering in dark scenes. Visually the location makes for a welcome change to the Australian metropolis we see so often -I’ve been waiting for someone to capitalise on Hobart’s striking backdrop in a local drama. Director of Photography Marden Dean crafts an atmospheric palette of blues, greens and greys.
Emma Booth and Ewen Leslie both make for strong leads, underplaying as befits the genre. It’s great to have skilled actors as the story drivers, rather than marquee stars trying to show off. I also love that Booth’s character clings to her rust-bucket of an old Ford instead of simply zipping around in the latest 4WD.
Not everybody may warm to its languid pace, but The Gloaming fits with a streaming model, and arrives more satisfyingly than Stan’s other new offering, The Commons. This may well find an audience internationally by anybody intrigued at the concept that is Tasmania.
The Gloaming premieres Wednesday on Stan.