‘Stay Close’ Series Review: When The Past Rears Its Ugly Head

'Stay Close' Series Review

‘Stay Close’ is a new British crime drama series based on the 2012 novel of the same name by mega-selling writer Harlan Coben.

The eight-episode series is available to stream on Netflix from December 31 and forms part of a five-year deal signed in 2018 that will see 14 of Coben’s novels being adapted into series running on the streaming giant.

‘Stay Close’ is the fourth time to receive the screen treatment after ‘Safe’ in 2018, ‘The Stranger’ and ‘The Woods’ both in 2020, and ‘The Innocent’ in the Spanish language in 2021.

The series directed by Daniel O’Hara stars Cush Jumbo, James Nesbitt, Richard Armitage, who also starred in ‘The Stranger,’ Sarah Parish, Eddie Izzard, Andi Osho, Daniel Francis, Jo Joyner, Bethany Antonio, and Rachel Andrews.

This show started production in February 2021 and wrapped by July with filming taking place in and around Manchester, Blackpool, and Northwest England.

‘Stay Close’ is one of those tales whereby an ugly and presumably forgotten past in which horrible stuff transpired comes back to haunt those who have tried their best to assume the past events as just water under a bridge.

Meghan, played by Cush Jumbo, is the good wife in this story and is living the best of her life as she is about to get hitched to her boyfriend of 16 years. Despite not being legally married, the couple has three kids together, whom Meghan tries her best to raise in the best and normal way possible.

'Stay Close' Series Review

Though she might seem like the perfect wife to be and mom, Meghan has a past that comes with a totally different name and a career that involved exotically dancing for the dollar in a shady bar.

The other pieces of the puzzle arrive in the form of Meghan’s old friend Lorraine played by Sarah Parish, a cop named Broome a role by James Nesbitt obsessed with a missing person’s case that has been cold for over a decade, and Ray embodied by Richard Armitage, a shutterbug who is still reeling from the disappearance of his girlfriend 17 years earlier, with his desire for the truth revived when he stumbles upon something pretty bloody as he digs through his work.

All these characters have one thing in common, namely that cold case which saw the disappearance of Stewart Green, played by Rod Hunt, who vanished into thin air 17 years ago.

This case is the only one detective Broome has ever failed to solve but is determined to get to the bottom of it and bring closure to the parties involved.

Now a young man named Carton Flynn goes missing from about the same place, sparking some fears and rattling some guilty consciences as well as a possible revival of the investigation.

‘Stay Close’ isn’t as sinister as some of the British thrillers audiences have experienced before, such as ‘The Red Riding Trilogy,’ as it exhibits some fantastic seamlessness to it.

Nesbitt’s sap comes with a silky suave, and the police headquarters where Broome carries his investigations from has a comically sterile luster. Meghan’s fiancé, on the other hand, who isn’t who he portrays himself to, has a thing for goofy T-shirts.

This intriguing show has its foundation in the film noir tradition where characters are unable to outrun their past regardless of how much they try, and they don’t seem to find a way to repent for the sins they’ve committed, which are better for them if left in the past.

The cast performances are fantastic, especially Jumbo, who forms the pivotal point of the series. Her facial expressions clearly imply the weight of whatever situation her character is going through in each scene.

As a woman who’d rather run away from her past than bring it to the fore, Meghan is the perfect example of a person with two identities that are extreme of each other. 

One chronicles her wild past, while the other highlights a fretful present and presumably blissful future.

Nesbitt and frequent scene partner Joyner are having plenty of fun throughout the series, throwing in some pretty tasteful jokes that keep the show engaging.

The series is well directed, especially the lighting is excellent, the camera pans and angles are executed to perfection, and the show, in general, stays true to the tropes of the mystery crime thriller genre.

As ‘Stay Close’ slowly builds up its puzzle, the audience realizes that nobody’s hands are entirely clean as far as the central events of the cold case are involved.

Through the excellent subliminal editing of violent events of the past through the dead silences where characters keep each other in the dark in the attempt to ensure that the skeletons stay hidden in their closets, the viewer is invited to imagine and speculate on what happened to all these people all those many years ago.

Though ‘Stay Close’ is fantastically executed, from the cinematography to the performances, the storyline, editing, and music, the series struggles to convey its sense of geography.

The show never quite manages to clearly show the correlation between the different locations, which can be quite distracting as without a sense of physical grounding one starts to wonder whether the protagonist just changed her name and moved a few blocks away from her old life, which she; has tried so much to run away from something that wouldn’t make sense at all.

‘Stay Close’ in crafted in a way to make sure that once one starts watching it, they can’t really stop. The happenings of one episode lead on to the next in such a compelling manner that the viewers find themselves intrigued by what happens next.

It’s a pretty memorable encounter that leaves a lasting impression on its audiences by creating an atmospheric environment that’s tense and dramatic without being obsessively addictive but indeed gripping at the same time.

It is a fantastic show to binge as one moves into the new year and is worth every single minute spent on it. Every episode lasts 45 minutes; hence pretty easy to go through.

SCORE: 7/10