Nicholls started his career in TV by writing a number of episodes of the highly-rated show Cold Feet before finding success on the big screen with Starter For 10 and the acclaimed One Day, both of which were based on his novels. Here he returns to TV with the well-structured The 7:39 which is directed by the greatly experienced Alexander.
Carl (Morrissey) and Sally (Smith) are rushing to catch a train – the 7:39, as you may well have guessed. As Sally nips in front of Carl to pinch the last remaining seat, he immediately sees red. Thankfully, the passenger opposite offers his place as he’s due to disembark, which thus pitches the two enemies face-to-face on the train. They don’t speak, and simply endure the rest of the journey in silence before engaging in their respective lines of work – which they both seem to despise. Their arrival home that evening highlights the daily repetitive grind that their separate lives have become, with Carl becoming frustrated with his demanding children and Sally’s level of resentment towards her partner Ryan (Maguire) who insists on a big wedding while she favours small and discreet.
The next day Carl breaks the ice with Sally to apologise for his hostile behaviour towards her. She accepts his mea culpa and they chat briefly but awkwardly and mock the futility of the daily routine. That conversation seems to awaken an obsession in Carl, who casually buys a book as he noted Sally reading, for sole reason of it being a conversation starter between the two commuters. He’s surprised to discover it works, and gradually over the course of time he and Sally begin to establish quite a firm friendship that sees them share the frustrations of their lives. The friendship develops into flirtation, and the rest you can imagine, but just how much these events affect them will change their lives forever.
Funny and engaging, The 7:39 is certainly a worthy time investment that you won’t regret undertaking. The excellent ensemble cast of Morrissey, Smith and especially Colman are all excellent and perfectly cast, fulfilling the dramatic and comedic turns in the script with aplomb. With the two hour running time a great portion is given to developing the characters of Carl and Sally, a substantial amount more than a feature film would allow and for this it benefits as you certainly develop an affinity for these likeable characters – if not sympathy.
On the downside the storyline is largely predictable and you’re able to guess each turn that the piece takes. Coupled with this is the plausibility of the directions that the couple take, be it a convenient overnight stay during a train strike, or Carl’s mid-life crisis themed joining of the gym in which Sally works. Overall though, irrespective of its flaws it does remain a captivating piece of drama with welcoming moments of comedy that highlight everyone’s desire to break the cycle of mundanity.
EXTRAS ★ A short behind-the-scenes featurette and trailers for other titles.