For the last decade, Clio Barnard has been at the forefront of the social-realist resurgence in Britain. Both her quasi-fictional documentary “The Arbor” and her Loach-ian scrap metal drama “The Selfish Giant” picked up BIFA and BAFTA Award nominations—the former also placed at #16 in our ‘Best Documentaries of the Decade [2010s],’ and her musical love story “Ali and Ava” is currently surging in popularity in the UK and abroad. This May, however, we see her swap the forgotten estates of West Yorkshire for a coastal parish town circa. 1893, as she directs Apple TV+’s new six-episode limited series, “The Essex Serpent.”
Written by BAFTA Award-nominee Anna Symon (“Mrs. Wilson”), but based on Sarah Perry’s best-selling novel of the same name, “The Essex Serpent” follows Cora Seaborne (played by Emmy and SAG Award winner Claire Danes), a London widow who moves to Essex to investigate reports of a mythical serpent. During her studies, she befriends the village vicar (Tom Hiddleston) and his family, but after several strange occurrences, the locals begin to suspect her of attracting the creature. The series also features Frank Dillane, Clémence Poésy, Hayley Squires and Greta Bellamacina.
While “The Essex Serpent” is not likely to be as left-field as stylistic contemporary Andrea Arnold’s “Cow,” it will still mark the first step outside the social-realist bubble for Barnard—well, nearly outside, since it’s pretty clear how her work on “The Arbor” and “The Selfish Giant” could translate to a new project like this; she has a knack for capturing the quirks and secret liaisons of small communities—of letting them speak with a distinctly home-grown voice. It should be interesting to see how this faculty is applied outside of Bradford in a period drama infused with mystery and superstition.
The first two episodes will drop on Friday, May 13, on Apple TV+, followed by one new episode weekly. Watch the new trailer below.