‘Stay Close’ review: This Harlan Coben adaptation gets it all wrong


The tone of the series careens wildly between brutal and bland, and by the time the promised twist comes at the end, you are beyond caring

Oh dear! This Harlan Coben adaptation has got it all wrong. While moving the action for adaptations of other Coben novels to Spain (The Innocent), Poland (The Woods) and France (Gone for Good) has worked, moving Stay Close from New Jersey and Atlantic City to an indeterminate location in the UK is an epic fail.

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There are big, fat plotholes that you cannot begin to get out and you will surely lose interest in after spending about 30 seconds thinking about them. Obviously, BAFTA-winning screenwriter Danny Brocklehurst, who has written some excellent Coben adaptations, including The Stranger, Safe and The Five, was unable to get a handle on this one.

Stay Close, based on Coben’s 2012 novel, tells the story of three people: suburban mom Megan (Cush Jumbo), a police detective Broome (James Nesbitt) and a photographer Ray (Richard Armitage). Megan, though now living the dream life with partner Dave (Daniel Francis) and their three children — Kayleigh (Bethany Antonia), Laura (Tallulah Byrne) and Jordan (Dylan Francis) — was a stripper called Cassie in another life at a club called Vipers.

Stay Close

  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 8
  • Run time: 36 to 52 minutes
  • Starring: Cush Jumbo, James Nesbitt, Richard Armitage, Sarah Parish, Eddie Izzard, Jo Joyner, Daniel Francis, Dylan Francis, Tallulah Byrne, Bethany Antonia, Rachel Andrews, Poppy Gilbert, Hyoie O’Grady
  • Storyline: A suburban mum’s life is turned upside down when her unsavoury past comes calling

Cassie and Ray were in love, but then one night, a nasty man called Stewart vanished and Cassie disappeared only to reappear as Megan in a beautiful house 17 years later. Ray, a talented photographer, (who for some strange reason needs a dark room to process digital photographs) went to pieces after Cassie’s disappearance. Broome was the detective assigned to find Stewart and has not been successful for the last 17 years, which must be quite depressing and cost him his marriage to Erin (Jo Joyner) though they continue to work together.

When another nasty man vanishes 17 years after Stewart did, it all comes back. Broome sees a connection between the two disappearances and sees a way of finally laying Stewart’s ghost to rest. Cassie visits the Vipers before her wedding, (why she does so is never convincingly explained) to set off a chain of unfortunate events. Ray gets into a brawl at Vipers, while Kayleigh and her friend Bea (Rachel Andrews) sneak into Vipers; gosh, it is tiresome even going through the plot.

A horrid, psychopathic couple, Ken (Hyoie O’Grady) and Barbie (Poppy Gilbert)—obviously not their real names — run about doing demented dance routines with a jolly bit of torture on the side. Sarah Parish is sweet Lorraine, the hard-as-nails but golden hearted bartender at Vipers, and Eddie Izzard is Harry Sutton, a kind lawyer and high-functioning drug addict who helps those who are down on their luck.

While beautiful-looking —even the police-provided safe house is gorgeous with a beach view — the inconsistencies in Stay Close are beyond annoying. How can all these people live in the same neighbourhood and never run into each other for 17 years? How can there be secret passages in the police station? How come nobody thought to check the woods and the bunker? What do Megan and Dave do for a living which has earned them so much money? The tone careens wildly between brutal and bland. By the time the promised twist comes at the end, you are beyond caring.

One can watch Stay Close, if you absolutely do not have anything to do… And even then, you could spend your time better, watching The Stranger or The Woods one more time.

Stay Close is currently streaming on Netflix

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