The Ice Cream Girls is ITV’s latest thriller, based on the novel of the same name by Dorothy Koomson. I happen to have read (and rather enjoyed) the book, so was looking forward to the adaptation. The plot follows two women, Poppy and Serena, who were both involved with the same creepy older man seventeen years ago. As the story flits between their teenage and grown-up selves, we learn that Serena is now happily married with a family, whereas Poppy has just been released from prison. Cue dramatic reveals all over the place.
Firstly, let me start by saying that I really wanted to shoot the screenwriter (Kate Brook). The book was actually quite well written, so oh-my-lord why didn’t she just lift the dialogue? Instead we get some of the most awful, clunky rubbish I’ve ever had the misfortune of sitting through, including gems like “We’re a family. We stick together” and “Just think about Mum. She needs us. You can do it.” I wish I was making this up, but I’m not. What’s more, she did that terrible thing of adding an obligatory character with cancer to create more emotion. Seriously, this has to be one of my least favourite tropes ever (note: using the same techniques as Nicholas Sparks is never a good idea). It’s like people who win an argument by referencing Nazis (the technical term is ‘to Godwin’. Yes I did just look that up. Moving on.) My other problem is that I know that there’s plenty of genuine drama to be had in The Ice Cream Girls, and yet the first eight minutes were so completely bland that I mistook the opening for a car commercial. Not a good sign.
I wasn’t really convinced by Lorraine Burrows’s Serena, who just seemed awkward the whole time, however Johdi May was excellent as Poppy. Her introduction was probably my favourite shot of the entire forty five minutes; involving a bridge, lots of cars and some angsty screaming. Good cinematography there. Their teenage equivalents, played by Georgina Campbell and Holli Dempsey, both nailed it: giving impressively nuanced performances in fairly limited screen time. Martin Compston was also excellent as their sort-of-boyfriend, who arguably has the hardest job of the lot since he had to make both us and the girls love and hate him simultaneously. He was restrained and not quite disturbing enough for my money, but was definitely getting there towards the end.
Overall, this first episode was a slow-burner, lacking the tension that I felt the story deserved. It was essentially just a lot of scene-setting for the impending drama which was ominously hinted at throughout. However, a host of strong performances bodes well for future episodes and I just might tune in again next week to see how they do.