Southcliffe is an unsettling portrayal of a small town marred by tragedy. This streaming British TV series explores the events leading up to, and the aftermath of, a mass shooting in a picturesque English village. It is told in non-linear fashion with many of the events seen at different times from different viewpoints. The slow reveal deliberately keeps us from piecing things together or making connections between the characters too quickly.
Though we find out who the shooter is before the end of the first episode, there is still much that we don’t know, and questions continue to arise through the rest of the series. The real focus is on the ordinary people affected by the shootings. We see how they respond to the death of loved ones and neighbors and how they may have – intentionally or not – provoked the shooter.

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One of several main characters is David Whitehead, played by Rory Kinnear, a TV reporter sent to cover the story. He grew up in Southcliffe and has his own secrets and connection to the shooter. Other principal characters include Stephen Morton, a veteran still obsessed with military life, played by Sean Harris (right), who some will recognize as Cesare’s right hand man from The Borgias series. He is equally intense and driven here. Eddie Marsan, currently in the Ray Donovan series, is Andrew Salter, a former childhood friend of Whitehead and one of only a few open and welcoming townsfolk.

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Kaya Scodelario plays one of the locals

The sun rarely shines in Southcliffe, and views of the surrounding countryside often feature electric transmission towers, though they are less ominous than in Durham County. There is an underlying sense of isolation and denial of reality on both an individual and community level, not unlike the central themes of The Returned.

Even for those that frequently watch BBC television series on Netflix, the accents on Southcliffe are often difficult to decode. It doesn’t help that dialog is sometimes quiet and sometimes mumbled. If you don’t catch every word, and you probably won’t, you will still be able to follow along.

Billed as a Netflix original, Southcliffe is actually a British television show written by Tony Grisoni and directed by Sean Durkin that originally aired on Channel 4, British public television, in 2013. There are four episodes totalling about three hours. If you enjoy British televisions shows and dramas, you can easily watch Southcliffe in one weekend or over a couple of evenings. It is recommended for fans of psychological dramas and suspense.

“Southcliffe” trailer from the Toronto International Film Festival