David Nicholls knows how to write a romance, that’s for sure. I sobbed for hours after finishing his bestseller One Day (later made into a film starring the gorgeous Anne Hathaway). Hurrah then for The 7.39, his new two-part BBC drama set against a backdrop of an early morning train commute.
From the previews and interviews I’ve read, it sounds like it’s going to be a Brief Encounter for our modern times. Sheridan Smith, no doubt terrific as always, and David Morrissey star as the strangers who meet and fall in love on their journey to work. The spanner in the works is that Morrissey is married (to the wonderful Olivia Colman) and Smith is engaged.
It’s not giving the game away to reveal that they do indeed embark on an affair – these aren’t the repressed 1930s after all. The drama lies in what happens afterwards – the messy aftermath for everyone involved.
This promises to be an entertaining and emotional drama, which highlights the romance of the rails. When you’re on a train – even a packed commuter train – it’s easy to feel removed from your everyday life. You’re neither here nor there. You’re in some strange hinterland, which can give you a sense of freedom. It’s easy to see how affairs can happen in these circumstances.
As Nicholls says: “What if people felt this attraction towards each other but tried to keep it in the carriage, just one hour a day of enjoying each other’s company? What if it seeped out of that contained world and into the rest of their lives? That seemed a great starting point. Hopefully if we have done it right the viewers who have commutes will be looking around the carriage in a completely different way the next day. That’s the intention; there was something about that world that seemed a perfect closed space for these passions to boil up in.”
That’s not to say I condone it of course – but I am very much looking forward to losing myself in this good old-fashioned modern rail-themed romance!
The 7.39 is on at 9pm, Monday 6 and Tuesday 7 January, BBC1.