In the small Irish village of Duneen, everyone knows everyone else’s business, and everyone plays their part: the talkative, the caring bartender, the woman who seeks solace in sex with inappropriate partners, the mother of two children not so secretly alcoholic. People, deep down, care about each other and there’s a lot of love here. But While carrying revolves around a little town secret: what happened to Tommy Burke?
When the only thing that urges local Sergeant PJ Collins to deal with the color of the exterior paint on the high street, as local shopkeeper Mrs O’Driscoll does, it’s a shock to face a real police work. Builders discover human bones while demolishing a house, and Duneen is immediately overwhelmed with words. Most people are convinced they belong to Tommy Burke, the local rake who disappeared 20 years ago shortly after abandoning a woman at the altar.
Two women are mentioned most frequently in the village chat: Evelyn Rodd (Charlene McKenna, Peaky Blinders, Blood of Vienna), who was close to Tommy, and Bríd (Siobhan McSweeney, Derry Girls), his betrayed fiancée, now unhappily married, with two adorable children she is devoted to and a stay-at-home mom with a caustic tongue and a drinking problem she seems to have passed on.
Sergeant Collins, played to melancholy perfection by Conleth Hill (The iron Throne, Dublin murdersand Blood of Vienna, which is streaming on SBS On Demand), oscillates between welcoming this new challenge and collapsing at the thought of taking it on. He is quickly demoted when Detective Linus Dunne (Clinton Liberty, normal people, red election) appears, and seems equal parts relieved and discouraged by it.
This is as quiet a thriller as the village seems to be when we first follow Collins’ housekeeper and cook (Brenda Fricker, my left foot, Albert Nobs) in the opening credits. The first episode installs the series as rich and round. We meet most of the players here – we have a small inkling that more will arrive to fill in the gaps in this story.
The saddest characters, those struggling to cope with daily life in this quiet corner of West Cork, including Bríd and kind Sergeant Collins, inspire a desire to see them more settled, more at peace with themselves. They make us love to want the best for them.
Collins is “new” in town, “three years and 10 months”, and a reserved guy who moved to Duneen because he found it to be “the safest place in the world”. But with this discovery, he will have his work cut out for him. As Dunne derails communications with the locals with his callous approach, Collins finds himself stepping in, albeit coyly, to smooth the ruffled feathers. So far, he has comforted himself with excessive carb consumption, but now he faces the test of his career. It is a journey that we look forward to embarking on with him.
Graham Norton, best known for entertaining artists on his popular talk show, wrote the novel of the same name on which this series is based. For its television adaptation, he was happy to entrust it to the writing duo Dominic Treadwell-Collins and Karen Cogan. Both Norton and Treadwell-Collins have homes in West Cork where the series was filmed, giving the series its authentic feel. As director Kathy Burke says, “We all know Graham Norton and there’s a warmth and a slyness and a darkness there. So half the job is done when you have all of that at the heart of it.
The script is layered and emotive, modern and timeless. The four-part series is tightly drawn and the performances rock solid. Siobhán McSweeney shines in her lead role as Bríd, and Hill rises as Collins, in a role he called “probably the best” he’s ever been presented with.
Maybe the tight-knit inhabitants of Duneen won’t be waiting too long.
While carrying premieres exclusively in Australia at 9:30 p.m. on SBS and on SBS On Demand on Thursday, May 12. Episodes air weekly.