Lustful, middle-aged Greg meets attractive, available Brenna. That’ll end well

‘Come Home’ review: Engrossing BBC-RTÉ thriller with Christopher Eccleston and a fine cast

Greg (Christopher Eccleston) and Brenna (Kerri Quinn) in ‘Come Home’

Greg (Christopher Eccleston) and Brenna (Kerri Quinn) in ‘Come Home’

 

Riffling through his vinyl collection at the end of a humiliating night out with unexpectedly fortuitous results, Christopher Eccleston’s Greg shares a lament with his visitor. “No one sticks with anything any more,” he says of endlessly advancing recording formats.

“Always looking round for something new, something better.”

This, of course, is how Greg sees his own predicament in Eccleston’s adroit performance in Come Home (BBC One, Tues, 9pm; RTÉ One, Tues, 9.15pm): as an older format, noted for high fidelity, who presumes himself abandoned for something flashier.

One year earlier, his wife Marie (an arresting Paula Malcomson) walked out, leaving him and their three kids alone. Her reasons for leaving remain unknown, but her whereabouts are not – just a few streets away in Belfast – making her actions harder for Greg to fathom.

At least Nora, Ibsen’s scandalising family deserter in A Doll’s House, provided more persuasive arguments while leaving no forwarding address.

The irony, though, is that it is Greg who is now looking for something new. He finds it in Brenna (the slinky, suspicious Kerri Quinn), who may be the Mp3 in his music analogy: attractively fashionable, prone to distortion, and, more to the point, instantly available.

That she has been rescued from a psychotically violent husband (the marvellous Patrick O’Kane, who, not for the first time, steals the show with a head-butt) and operates an eager sandwich van called Brenna’s Baps, brings her closer to a slavering male fantasy. (Their vigorous sex scenes follow suit.)

When, a heartbeat later, she moves in with Greg, bringing along her own small child and speaking wildly inappropriately with his alarmed kids, she edges closer to a male fear.

Whether wanton sexpot or cuckoo in the nest, she proves that Greg is a hostage to his own desires.

The same may be true of Marie, but because the first episode of writer Danny Brocklehurst’s effective three-part drama is told from Greg’s swivelling perspective, it prioritises a beleaguered man’s mind, full of sunny reminiscences of happier times and darker ruminations on abandonment and manipulation.

Delaying Marie’s side of the story for the sake of plot payoff, however, has the unfortunate effect of literally making women a mystery.

Still, in director Andrea Harkin’s hands, it makes for an engrossing, overheated domestic thriller, assisted by fine performances all round, especially from Lola Pettigrew and Andrew Boyle as Greg’s disapproving teenagers.

It also boasts a refreshing approach towards Belfast, filming the city as something other than a history-dazed battleground or a dark backdrop to neo-gothic horror.

Besides, where else might a lusty couple be caught by the police, in flagrante in the back of a car, and recognised as the sandwich lady and the local car mechanic? “You’re a gent, Greg,” says the officer who books a service on his Opel Astra, and politely makes his excuses with the word, “Right!”

Come Home, all is forgiven.