Amber, BBC4, with Eva Birthistle, David Murray PREVIEW

 Ben Bailey (DAVID MURRAY), Sarah Bailey (EVE BIRTHISTLE) in BBC4's Amber
David Murray as Ben and Eva Birthistle as Sarah in BBC4’s Amber. Pics: BBC

Rating: ★★★½

BBC1: starts Tuesday, 3 June, 10pm

Story: Ben and Sarah are recently separated and getting on with their lives. Everything changes, however, when their teenage daughter Amber fails to return home and it turns out she never arrived at her best friend’s house that afternoon as arranged.

THIS DUBLIN-SET drama about the disappearance of 14-year-old mouthy teenager Amber is low-key and unflashy, but it soon draws you in.

Amber Bailey (LAURYN CANNY) in BBC4's Amber
Lauryn Canny as Amber

It’s not all car chases and shoot-outs, but a solid drama about everyday people caught in a harrowing situation.

When we meet the Baileys they are as down to earth as you get. Ben and Sarah are separated and juggling busy lives and the care of their children, Amber and Eamon. Amber is your typical teen who thinks she’s an adult – putting her younger brother in his place and being a demanding madam to her parents.

How Amber’s disappearance devastates the family

Dad Ben agrees to drop her at a friend’s house – and their nightmare begins. Amber never shows up at her friend’s. She has gone missing.

The drama, written by Rob Crawley and Gary Duggan in an RTE production, cleverly follows how

Maeve Flynn-Dunne (JUSTINE MITCHELL) in BBC4's Amber
Justine Mitchell as Maeve

Ben, Sarah and Eamon’s lives are tipped into uncertainty and heartache. Amber’s disappearance drives Ben and Sarah to distraction, Eamon feels abandoned.

Sarah’s friendship with Maeve, a journalist, is badly strained when Maeve writes an article about Amber and her parents. There are the police and the media to deal with too.

New wave of TV crime drama

And all the time there is the gigantic question torturing them – what happened to Amber. It’s a devastating mystery that will last four episodes, narrating a story that unfolds over two years.

Amber is very much in the spirit of new crime dramas that are currently winning audiences, character-driven productions that shun the cliches of police procedurals – Broadchurch, The Fall, Happy Valley.

Following the huge success of The Killing, networks are commissioning new dramas that pursue

Terrence O’Donoghue (NED DENNEHY) in BBC4's Amber
How is prisoner Terrence O’Donoghue involved?

one story over several weeks rather than a mystery each week. And these stories are not just concerned with whodunit, but the fall-out from the crimes.

Eva Birthistle as Sarah

Amber is certainly in this category. It’s a story with heart, and Dublin-born Eva Birthistle, who’s been seen in series such as Case Sensitive and Waking the Dead, is extremely good as Sarah. David Murray as Ben, veering from dismay to violent anger to helplessness, also puts in a sympathetic performance.

BBC4, which was ahead of the game in introducing Nordic and Italian noir to Saturday nights, should have another audience favourite with this compelling Irish drama.

Cast: Lauryn Canny Amber Bailey, David Murray Ben Bailey, Eva Birthistle Sarah Bailey, Levi O’Sullivan Eamon Bailey, Declan Conlon DI Dunlop, David Herlihy Declan Conlon, Emily Nagle Sgt Karen Mulachy, Justine Mitchell Maeve Flynn-Dunne

See also…
Happy Valley latest in British crime’s TV division to capture large audiences

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