Stay Close, review: James Nesbitt and Cush Jumbo stumble through this nonsensical Netflix hokum

Parts of Stay Close (Netflix) are set in a shop called Hannibal’s Animals, which is fitting, because this show is a dog’s dinner. It’s an adaptation of a novel by the US thriller writer Harlan Coben, but relocated to Blackpool. 

This version of Blackpool has a nightclub in the middle of a forest and a police station that could double as Google HQ. Eddie Izzard appears as a lawyer who defends showgirls by day, shoots up heroin by night, and lives in a pet shop. 

The plot is ropey but serviceable. Cush Jumbo stars as middle-class Megan. As the episodes unfold, we learn how she is linked to Ray (Richard Armitage), a photographer who scratches a living as a paparazzo. Meanwhile, a man has disappeared after a night out. 

The detective in charge is James Nesbitt, who is convinced that it is something to do with a case from 17 years ago. As always, his character is irresistible to women. Perhaps it’s written into his contracts. 

So far, so standard. But then, in episode two, a couple of strange assassins turn up. Arriving on a victim’s doorstep, they break into song. Before dumping a corpse, they perform a dance routine to a jaunty cover version of Radiohead’s Creep. Plainly, it’s an attempt to copy the quirkiness of Killing Eve, but done in such a cack-handed way that you’ll be embarrassed for everyone involved.

Once you’ve seen this, the oddities jump out. Jumbo has two scenes in which she displays impressive fight skills, but it turns out to have no significance whatsoever. Nesbitt’s police partner is his ex-wife. She brings her baby to work, which is the stuff of a Catherine Tate sketch.

The best thing here is Youssef Kerkour (from Channel 4’s Home), in a supporting role. The cast also includes Sarah Parish with a distracting perm. Perhaps her hair is why I eventually lost track of what was going on.

Nesbitt can’t decide whether to take this seriously or not. He delivers some of his lines as if he’s sending the whole thing up. But by the end he goes all in, and has some emotional scenes that I can’t mention without ruining the plot. If you’re after a mindless bingeathon – and there’s no shame in that, after the year we’ve just had – then watch away. Just don’t expect it to make any sense.

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