Vicky McClure can't get to sleep in a new psychological thriller, and fears she is losing her grip on reality.

Having Vicky McClure’s (Line of Duty, Trigger Point) on a drama is enough to get my attention.

So much so, that when I sat down to begin Insomnia I didn’t know much about it at all. Which probably explains why the early scenes were a right ball of confusion.

Was I watching these loose fragments of a woman in real life, flashback or a dream sequence? Probably it was all of the above. In the six part series, UK mum Emma (Vicky McClure) is approaching her 40th birthday, whilst having constant trouble sleeping alongside husband Robert (Tom Cullen).

Making life even more confusing, the preview episode didn’t quite have all the ADR (Automated Dialogue Replacement) completed, which at least won’t be a problem for you, dear reader / viewer.

Emma has two kids, teen Chloe (India Fowler) and toddler Will (Smylie Bradwell), lives in a well-appointed property and works in family law for a successful law firm.

She also has a caustic relationship with her sister Phoebe (Leanne Best), who has a habit of turning up unannounced and pushes her to reunite with her elderly mother, who is dying in hospital. But there is so much history, for reasons which will become explained, that Emma refuses to see her mother and indeed, has completely lied about her existence to husband Robert.

Through flashbacks we learn that when mum was also turning 40 she lost her grip on sanity, warning Emma that “bad blood” runs in the family. It’s this ‘curse’ that revisits Emma around which Insomnia revolves. Does she have the same ‘bad blood?’ Will it ruin her perfect life despite all the work she has forged to achieve it?

All signs of increasing nightmares certainly point towards it, and Emma feels like she is fighting a losing battle…

The premise of this tale felt to me like it should probably be a psychological thriller film. While I wasn’t seeing where this would go for six episodes, an episode two conclusion did open it out into more complex terrain.

Vicky McClure is always engaging in her gritty, grounded characters and in Insomnia she has less control than some of her more recent work. The relationship with sister Phoebe upstages that of her on-screen husband, with Leanne Best as a suitable match.

Director Börkur Sigthorsson pulls off some unsettling scenes, such as Emma waking up in the middle of the night in her pond, and you’re often unsure whether you are watching Emma’s reality or non-reality.

Having the two children in the story feels like obvious territory for a drama with ‘bad blood’ invested. Hopefully it’s not as predictable as it feels early on and there are some decent twists ahead.

Yet if not for McClure, who is in almost every scene, I might not have stayed for the plot shifts which begin around halfway into the series, so I’m hoping it will ultimately be worth my time.

Insomnia premieres Friday May 24 on Stan.

7 Responses

  1. Fairly certain this is from the same writer/author as ‘Behind Her Eyes’, which means that it is likely to be ridiculous and entertaining in equal parts. I wonder if astral projection will be involved!

  2. I find these types of shows very confusing where you don’t know if it’s a dream or real till something weird happens & you think oh it’s a dream. Then there’s some where they seem to wake up but after a while you realise they are still dreaming. It’s very hard to keep track.

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