Came for Sean Durkin but got smacked with three hours of Tony Grisoni (the guy who wrote the Red Riding trilogy) and his hamhanded dramaturgy. First two episodes recall Elephant, hopping back and forth between the massacre and events leading up to it in ways that verge on exploitative; the achronology never feels like anything more than a trendy gimmick here, plus a means of injecting some violence every so often to keep viewers awake.
I am not a TV critic, and so I would not deign to discuss Southcliffe in that regard, but as an ordinary viewer I found the miniseries format to have problems not unlike those of narrative shorts: too much information crammed in a space that didn’t permit breadth or development... this is the fundamental problem: a work of cinema would probably strive to do less, and hit the mark, or not be cued to predetermined episodic beats.
...Southcliffe doesn’t become compelling until the third of four episodes—though even then, as Rory Kinnear’s Southcliffe-raised, London-based TV reporter is drunkenly shouting that the town deserved what it got, the movie has safely left the realm of common sense. Some affecting turns (by Shirley Henderson and especially Eddie Marsan as a grieving couple) salvage some of it, but the film is an unilluminating—and, with its unvaried palette of gray tones, under-illuminated—wallow in grief.