Storylines In Review

Upcoming Attractions
-A series of blog posts on upcoming film or tv releases, storyline by storyline.

The 'Away-Break Crisis' 2018

In this storyline, the protagonist suffers a personal crisis during an away-break visit. (We're not including shipwreck/plane-crash castaway-survival stories here.) This usually happens somewhere abroad, where he or she is lacking their usual social support framework, and may be something of a ‘fish out of water’ when things go wrong. It has flourished more in film than tv drama, with location filming a mainstay aspect since the advent of colour and widescreen filming in the 1950s.
Recently, there has 25th-anniversary press coverage of what would have been – had it not been cancelled by the BBC a year in - the longest single work revolving around this storyline, the soap opera Eldorado. It appeared in 1992 with much attendant publicity and ran thrice weekly in a ‘high-profile’ BBC1 evening slot. Had it continued like other tv soap operas, it would by now have racked up 3x52x25 episodes, but it only lasted a year or 156 episodes [all available on YouTube] before being cancelled. (Wiki: “Eldorado is remembered as an embarrassing failure for the BBC, and is sometimes used as a byword for any unsuccessful, poorly received or over-hyped television programme.”)
This was despite a cast overhaul to replace inexperienced actors hired for their looks. The underlying problem is other elements had been chosen for their appearance, including a concrete village set with echoey acoustics built in the hills above the Costa del Sol. (Wiki: “the BBC hoped it would be as successful as EastEnders and replicate some of the sunshine and glamour of imported Australian soaps such as Home and Away and Neighbours”)
Its original working title was Little England, which indicates the condescending attitude of the producers towards its expatriate characters, but the new title, meant to be more ‘European’, made little sense either. TV Cream website: “The plan, hatched by 'Enders creators Julia Smith and Tony Holland, was to launch a "supersoap" (their term, which should've been a warning) originally titled Little England (warning siren number two) set in a purpose-built ex-pat village on the Costa Del Sol, thus giving a hopeful nod in the direction of Euro-syndication.”
Created by Tony Holland from an idea by producers John Dark and Verity Lambert, there was simply no proper story setup, no central concept beyond a commercial ambition and a patronising view of 'expats'. Basic character-setup matters were not dealt with at the outset, such as ... Who are these people anyway, like ‘Bunny’, ‘Razor’, or ‘Snowy White’? What are they doing in this hideaway? Few of the characters are retirement age, as you might expect - how do they survive financially? Are they all rich? Their kids are all somehow teen-dating age - where do they go to school? They're not criminals, with one obvious exception, who's set up as the series' 'Dirty Den' equivalent, a shameless mortgage fraudster who seems to be immune from legal consequences. (His sports car gets blown up in the final episode.) It looks like the
se 20-plus characters were meant to be simply a cross-section of ordinary English society, somehow transplanted to a Spanish enclave to exploit the 'Sun, sex and sangria' aspect the producers promised. The 'Little Englander' siege-mentailty identity the original title promised was not part of the framework - indeed, why would it be? Nobody forced these people to come here - it's not as if they were fleeing a collapsing socialist Britain (which might have worked if the series was made in the 70s).
The irony is that in the 70s the BBC had produced a successful double series about expatriate characters who had some psychological depth. The Lotus Eaters [1972-3], created by Michael Bird, had a long story arc revolving around the two co-protagonists’ real identity, as well as individual-episode plots involving patrons of the bar the expat couple ran. (Originally it was to be on Ibiza but this was changed to Crete.) The difference there was that the series had what Americans call a showrunner, someone who can bridge the writing and producing roles. (Bird lived part of the time in the Med, had his own production company, helped negotiate location filming, and went on to write 3 more BBC series set and location-shot in the Greek isles, Who Pays The Ferryman?, The Aphrodite Inheritance and The Dark Side Of The Sun, each of which had a unique central concept.)
The BBC would never again commission an ‘open-ended’ soap, but proposals, including a recent one by the writer of the first episode, Tony Jordan, to bring the serial back, suggests little has been learned. (Ongoing uncertainty over the Brexit situation alone would make the project unrealistic.)

Upcoming Titles A-Z
Juno Temple “plays Ria, a troubled young woman who flees her pimp boyfriend in London to start a new life in Blackpool, where she befriends Timothy Spall’s Joseph, who is suicidal and largely mute.” Written by Roger Hadfield, this Blackpool-set indie feature was supposedly released last May, but this seems to have been just straight to DVD, with no general release.
Beautiful Ruins
Beautiful Ruins, a 2012 bestselling novel by Jess Walter, is being filmed from a script originally by Todd Field and Jess Walter, and subsequently by Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster for Fox 2000. It has a film-industry-related plot, being classed as “a social satire critiquing Hollywood culture” [Wiki]. It is set initially in 1962 in an Italian fishing village when Cleopatra was being filmed in Rome. Subsequent events spanning five decades and set in various locations from Edinburgh to Hollywood are told from converging viewpoints. (The delay in filming it may be due to the novel’s complex structure and the fact its format is epistolary, consisting of letters, screenplay excerpts etc.)

Black Earth Rising
This 8-part BBC2 drama series written by its director Hugo Blick (The Honourable Woman) is largely set in Africa. The London-based lawyer protagonist's visit is prompted by the fact her mother is investigating possible war crimes by a Rwandan militia leader, "a journey that will upend their lives forever." Blick describes it as a “longform thriller which, through the prism of a black Anglo-American family, examines the West’s relationship with Africa by exploring issues of justice guilt, and self-determination.”
Written by its producer/director and star, the Irish-American former Riverdance star Michael Flatley, the plot setup of this self-financed indie feature sounds reminiscent of Casablanca.
IMDB Synopsis - “Troubled secret agent ‘Blackbird’ abruptly retires from service and opens a luxurious nightclub in the Caribbean to escape the dark shadows of his past. An old flame arrives and reignites love in his life but she brings danger with her.”

Not to be confused with the above, this is a retitled remake of the 2014 Danish film Stille hjerte, known in English as Silent Heart. This is about three generations of a family assembling for the weekend as their last chance to say their farewells to their invalid mother, who is terminally ill and has elected for euthanasia. The new version, set in London, is being written by the 2014 film's writer, Christian Torpe.
Right: The 2014 Danish original, Stille hjerte.

Burning Secret
This mooted project is based on a rediscovered Stanley Kubrick script. The plot concerns a woman and her son staying at a country hotel spa who are seduced by a mysterious rogueish character with an agenda all his own. Its discoverer says the screenplay is ready to film, though the find being only recently publicised, nobody has yet optioned it. Kubrick co-wrote it in 1956 with US novelist Calder Willingham (The Graduate), based on a 1913 novella by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig. (Once famed throughout Europe, Zweig fled the Nazis before committing suicide, and today is perhaps best-known for inspiring Wes Anderson's 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel.) In fact the novella has been twice filmed before, in 1933 and 1988 [illustrated right]. Kubrick of course would have imposed his own interpretation, as he did with Eyes Wide Shut, loosely based on Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler's 1926 novella Traumnovelle.
Call Me by Your Name Sequel
The 2017 Italian-set romantic coming-of-age drama written by James Ivory from the André Aciman novel, Call Me By Your Name was originally announced as the 3rd and thus final part of director Luca Guadagnino's "Desire trilogy", following I Am Love (2009) and A Bigger Splash (2015). However with CMBYN becoming an international hit, there was - perhaps inevitably - talk by the director of a followup film with the same characters (a 17-year-old living in Italy, and his father's American assistant), and this now has an entry in the IDMB, under the above title.
HBO’s half-hour comedy series is based on the 6 x 30 min British series created by Julia Davis. A husband’s 45th birthday-retreat weekend gets over-organised, and turns into a social and marital debacle involving several other invitees. (“when the camping trip gathers Kathryn’s meek sister, holier than thou ex-best friend and a free-spirited Tagalong in one place, it becomes a weekend of tested marriages and woman-on-woman crime that won’t soon be forgotten. Plus, bears.”) The US version is co-written by Lena Dunham [Girls] and executive producer Jenni Konner.
Right: PR still from the 2016 British original.
Corporate Animals
Written by Sam Bain [Four Lions], this ‘dark’ comedy revolves around a during a corporate team-building caving weekend in New Mexico which goes wrong. The egotistical CEO and a group of staff at an edible cutlery company “get trapped underground and the mismatched and disgruntled group must pull together in order to survive, amidst sexual tension, startling business revelations and casual cannibalism.”
The Durrells
ITV's popular drama series, written by Simon Nye [Men Behaving Badly], inspired by Gerald Durrell's memoirs of his family's 5-year sojourn on Corfu just before WW2, is filming its 3rd and final season of 6 episodes for broadcast next January. The series is a 'sexed up' version, with most plot developments being made up for comic and dramatic purposes. Here, the family's real-life precarious finances are mentioned for the first time (there have been 2 previous tv adaptations of Gerald's Corfu trilogy). But the 'jeopardy' situations the family encounter are almost entirely fictional. The mother here is portrayed as considerably younger and almost weekly is involved in romantic intrigues.
Written by Elizabeth O Halloran (screenplay), Edward Lynden-Bell (story) and director Simon Hunter (idea), this ‘feel-good’ drama has a newly-widowed 83-year-old decide that, before settling into her retirement home, she will try to climb a particular mountain. This is Suilven in the far north of Scotland, a sugarloaf shaped peak of which she has an old picture postcard. She has long dreamed of doing this but was unable to, due to spending three decades caring for an invalid husband. Owing to the physical challenge involved, she hires the local camping-supplies shop owner as her guide. (The film was officially released in May 2018 without much fanfare, but will be out on R2 DVD in November.)
Right: Sheila Hancock as Edie.
The Expatriates
This Amazon Prime drama series backed by Nicole Kidman is being adapted by Alice Bell (The Beautiful Lie) from Janice Y.K. Lee’s novel set among a group of female expats in Hong Kong... "a world of unusual alliances, heartfelt truths and mystifying superstitions; a place where fortunes are made and lost, families sundered and brought together, identities made and then remade in pursuit of an extraordinary life."
The Forgiven
Adapted by its director John Michael McDonagh [The Guard, Calvary] from the novel by Lawrence Osborne, this is about a London couple visiting Morocco for a private weekend party at a friend’s remote luxury villa in the Sahara. They wind up in a dangerous quandary after the husband knocks down a local man while distracted by their marital bickering. The husband then has to undertake a dangerous journey farther into the Sahara. (Author Lawrence Osborne spent time in the region before he wrote the novel, and has said the plot was inspired by an actual event.)

The Guernsey Literary And Potato Peel Pie Society
Classed in its PR release as a “historical romantic comedy-drama”, this just-released feature seems to be a crossover between several storylines. However the action being built around the protagonist, a London-based writer, visiting the Channel Isles suggests an away-break crisis. Adapted by Don Roos and Tom Bezucha from the posthumously published 2008 novel by Mary Ann Shaffer (completed by her niece Annie Barrows), the story is set in the aftermath of WW2, when memories of the German Occupation are still raw wounds.
Ibiza (2018)
Written by Lauryn Kahn, this raunchy romcom from Netflix has a young female PR’s company-sponsored trip to Barcelona with her two friends complicated by her meeting a ‘hot’ DJ in a club. (Shot in Croatia, the film has received criticism that its makers obviously know nothing of Ibiza, though the writer says it was inspired by an actual trip she made with two friends.)
Long Day’s Journey Into Night /Di qiu zui hou de ye wan
Written by its director Gan Bi (and no relation to the famous Eugene O'Neill play), this is a China-France co-production about a man returning to the town he fled years before, in seach of a former lover he has been unable to forget. (It’s drawn film-festival comment for having an hour-long single-take shot … in 3D!)
The Lost Daughter
Adapted from Elena Ferrante’s novel by its producer and star Maggie Gyllenhaal, this "follows Leda who, while on a holiday by the sea, experiences a seemingly meaningless event that causes her to be overwhelmed by memories of the difficult and unconventional choices she made as a mother and their consequences for herself and her family. What begins as an apparently serene tale of a woman’s pleasant rediscovery of herself soon becomes a ferocious psychological thriller about a confrontation with an unsettled past."
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again / Mamma Mia 3?
This 2nd ABBA-songs based jukebox-musical romcom is billed as a “ten years on” sequel, released 10 years exactly after Mamma Mia, but is also a prequel going back 40 years. That is, there are flashbacks to 1979 showing how Meryl Streep’s now-deceased character Donna, here played by a younger actress, came to be on the isle of 'Kalokairi'. (The sequel was shot not in Greece but for tax perks in Croatia.) The script is by director Ol Parker, from a story by Parker, Catherine Johnson, and the doyen of English romcoms, Richard Curtis. The plot has the characters converge on the island for some belated reconciliation after Donna's passing. The original 2008 plot setup of the 3 possible fathers is thought to have been lifted from from the 1968 comedy Buona Sera, Mrs. Campbell, but in the 2008 film this ended with an agreement to share paternity obligations. Song lyrics have also been revised to remove 'inappropriate' aspects in songs such as When I Kissed The Teacher. A MM#3 is rumoured but no details yet.

Nine Perfect Strangers
Based on an upcoming novel by Big Little Lies author Liane Moriarty, this Nicole Kidman-backed project
"pairs nine strangers who gather at a remote health resort for ten days, some to lose weight, others to get a break from their lives and maybe a reboot. Each is prepared to put in some work to attain those goals, but it becomes a lot harder than they expected."

Ad-line: Could ten days at a health resort really change you forever?

One Percent More Humid
Written by director Liz W. Garcia, this feature drama has two young women returning for the summer to their New England home town after the death in a car accident of a friend. Each becomes involved with an adult, one with a married teacher who is there for the summer to write a novel.
[Rated R for sexual content, nudity, drug use and language]

Picnic At Hanging Rock
The ‘away-break’ here is a field-trip schoolday outing in 1900 South Australia by pupils and teachers from an 'exclusive' all-girls boarding school to a local rock formation. There, 3 pupils and a teacher mysteriously vanish exploring it. The failure of the local authorities to discover the reason tears the school’s repressive ‘civilised’ facade apart, leading to ruin and suicide. No conventional explanation is ever found, something that has driven more conventionally-minded viewers to distraction. (Nor is it a true story, as implied by the 1967 Joan Lindsey source novel.)
The new tv adaptation, previously filmed as a dreamlike feature in 1975, has already been shown on BBC and is just out on DVD. Adapted by Beatrix Christian and Alice Addison, the 6-part drama serial from FreemantleMedia is three times the length of the '75 feature and hence has more time for back stories.

A Rainy Day In New York
Woody Allen’s latest has “Two young people arrive in New York for a weekend where they are met with bad weather and a series of adventures.”
There is little info available and the Amazon Studios film has reportedly had trouble getting bookings due to the revived controversy over Allen’s supposed proclivities involving younger women. The main characters are described as 'college seniors.' One online article suggests it may not receive a proper release due to its plot. ("'Rainy Day is reportedly about a middle-aged man, played by Jude Law, who has sex with "much younger women," including his so-called "concubine," a 15-year-old played by Elle Fanning.")
Update: Industry speculation is the film may not be released at all.
Screenwriter Andrew Davies is adapting Jane Austen’s unfinished final novel as an eight-part adaptation for ITV/ PBS. Austen wrote only a few chapters before she died in 1817, but Davies has long taken a freehand approach to classic adaptation anyway. The plot has the heroine travel to one of the then-new seaside resorts. (“When a chance accident transports her from her rural hometown of Willingden to a would-be coastal resort, it exposes Charlotte to the intrigues and dalliances of a seaside town on the make.”)
Davies: “Sanditon tells the story of the transformation of a sleepy fishing village into a fashionable seaside resort, with a spirited young heroine, a couple of entrepreneurial brothers, some dodgy financial dealings, a West Indian heiress, and quite a bit of nude bathing.”
Filming is expected to start in spring 2019.

State Of Wonder
Ann Patchett’s 2011 novel is being developed as an ‘event’ series.

Synopsis: ‘Dr Marina Singh journeys into the depths of the Amazon rain forest in search of her former mentor, veteran scientist Dr Annick Swenson, who has vanished while conducting research into the prolonged fertility of the women of an isolated Amazonian tribe. As Marina embarks upon this uncertain odyssey, she will be forced to surrender herself to the lush but forbidding world that awaits her in the darkest reaches of the rain forest.

Two For Joy
Written by director Tom Beard, this British indie drama has a family staying on the English coast [actually Weymouth in Dorset] stricken by a bereavement crisis.

A yet-untitled ‘social media thriller’ by writer-director Will Wernick, concerns a young vlogger who runs into trouble after he and his team travel to Moscow in search of material.

The Weekend
In this comedy written by director Stella Meghie, a comedian ‘goes away for the weekend with an ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend ... and the three-day trip will leave nobody unchanged.’

The White Crow
Directed by Ralph Fiennes and adapted by playwright David Hare from the Julie Kavanaugh book Rudolf Nureyev: The Life, this ‘charts the iconic dancer's famed defection from the Soviet Union to the West in 1961, despite KGB efforts to stop him’.

White Lines
Written by Alex Pina [creator of the 2017 Netflix series La Casa de Papel/ Money Heist], who will serve as showrunner, this Netflix series is set on Ibiza:
"when the body of a legendary Manchester DJ is discovered twenty years after his mysterious disappearance from Ibiza, his sister returns to the beautiful Spanish island to find out what happened. Her investigation will lead her through a thrilling world of dance music, super yachts, lies and cover-ups, forcing her to confront the darker sides of her own character in a place where people live life on the edge."
The Wife
Scripted by Jane Anderson from the novel by Meg Wolitzer, the synopsis ("A wife questions her life choices as she travels to Stockholm with her husband, where he is slated to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature") suggests a character-driven Bergmanesque drama akin to Wild Strawberries.

Left: A pair of screen-shots [mouse over image] from Edie.

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[c] Storylines In Review 2018