Something is in the air in the small Welsh village of Penmynydd, a memory which will not sleep despite a generation having passed since a toddler vanished without trace, the case never closed but untouched for years. In his mansion of dusty rooms and closed doors, wealthy landowner Ewan Dean frantically smashes every mirror before catching a glimpse of a reflection in a fragment left in the frame; moments later, he too is in the air, stepping off the roof to his death.
Hundreds of miles away in London, celebrated cellist Matilda Gray knows nothing of this as she juggles her obligations and expectations and haphazard social life as she prepares for a major concert with her musical partner Hal Fine prior to making arrangements for an extended stay in New York.
Matilda hasn’t yet told her mother, Janice, whom she knows will take the separation hard, but she is determined that this is something she wants to do alone, but nor will she ever have the chance.
Showing up at the stage door moments before the performance, Matilda is concerned about Janice’s distraught state of mind and follows her, the only witness to her mother’s unprecipitated suicide.
Unable to process what has happened, at her mother’s home Janice finds a shoebox of newspaper clippings and photographs relating to the disappearance of four year old Carys Howell in March 1994, deliberately left out, she believes, for her to find.
Unconvinced but wishing to help, Hal agrees to accompany Matilda to Penmynydd to find out why her mother wished her to know about the missing child of a family she had no apparent connection with.
Written by The Slap‘s Kris Mrksa and directed by Mahalia Belo, Matilda, the first of six hour long episodes of the BBC’s new supernatural tinged psychological thriller Requiem takes the audience from the busy streets of the capital, soundtracked by tortured cello arpeggios, to the supposedly tranquil contrast of the pastoral valleys where ethereal choirs sing, yet everywhere the walls whisper with the incessant voices of madness.
As Matilda, Star Trek Beyond‘s Lydia Wilson gives a spikey performance, awkward with everyone around her except Hal and even lashing out at him when he she feels he is giving her insufficient support, her late breakfast coffee with Janice (The Thick of It‘s Joanna Scanlan) almost a meeting between two strangers.
As Hal, Game of Thrones‘ Joel Fry is so far given little to do other than act as chauffeur, piano accompanist, fall guy and sounding board for Matilda’s fugue, a friendzoned doormat whose deep reserves of sympathy are perhaps needed after Matilda’s interview with the investigating officer whose rush to the toxicology lab saw her skipping sensitivity training altogether.
With scant plot which could have been fitted into half the running time, every scene labouring a single obvious dramatic point and with fragments of nightmares repeating beneath an overwrought soundscape, the attempts at atmosphere are forced rather than organic, the ghosts of the past occupying a house built on tenuous foundations, Requiem is in need of an immediate overhaul if it is to gather interest in a competitive market.
Requiem launches on BBC One on Friday 2nd February will be available globally on Netflix