The 7.39 - DVD review

David Nicholls has had an interesting and varied career to date and has won acclaim for his work in TV and film as well as his fiction. His first feature film was an adaptation of Sam Shepard’s stage-play
Simpatico (1999). Nicholls then cut his teeth contributing scripts for the popular TV series Cold Feet (2000) and a number of TV dramas followed. He gained wider recognition with his acclaimed book One Day which was made into a film in 2011. Despite his success in cinema, Nicholls has retained his affection for television. His latest offering, The 7.39 (2014), about an adulterous affair, demonstrates his usual flair for convincing characters and dialogue but lacks the rigour and passion of previous work.

Carl (David Morrissey), a commercial property agent, and Sally (Sheridan Smith), the manager of a gym meet on the crowded 7.39 train to Waterloo. Their first words are spoken in anger as Carl accuses Sally of stealing his seat. The next day, he apologises for his unchivalrous behaviour and a flirtation begins. Wisely, Nicholls refuses to rush the romance and the first half of his two-hour drama is taken up with developing the couple’s unconsummated relationship. A train strike provides them with the opportunity to stay overnight in London and take things further.

We quickly realise that their romantic attachment is unlikely to end well. Although undeniably bored with the monotony of his daily commute to work Carl is, to all intents and purposes, happily married to Maggie (Olivia Colman) with two children. Sally is engaged to her personal-trainer boyfriend Ryan (Sean Maguire) who is keen to start a family. We sense that Carl and Sally fall into the affair because they want some respite from the predictability of their home lives. They are also clearly sexually attracted to one another, and yet, confounding our expectations, their first attempt to consummate their relationship nearly ends in disappointment.

The second half of Nicholls’ drama is taken up with the blossoming and then unravelling of their love and the reactions of their respective partners to their infidelity. Although The 7.39 clearly recalls the 1945 film classic, Brief Encounter (deemed by many to be the most romantic film of all time), it is a far more desultory affair. Despite the top-notch cast and John Alexander’s slick direction, it’s hard to fully engage with the lovers’ predicament. But maybe that’s the point – they have loving spouses hovering in the background and their sense of responsibility finally smothers any passion. Nicholls is not known for his conventionally happy endings. He’s more interested in his characters’ journey and is adept at depicting life’s disappointments – the anxieties and petty resentments of ordinary people and the compromises they are forced to make.

 Originally published by