New Cross Review: Russell Tovey’s Forbidden Love

COMING UP – NEW CROSS: Monday 2nd July, Channel 4, 11.10pm

Part of Channel 4’s “Coming Upâ€? season, which will be showcasing the talented aspiring writers and directors over the next month or so, comes New Cross, a half-hour short about forbidden love.

The film’s protagonist is Carl, whose been in a terrible state of depression since his mother died some years ago. He lives in an awful flat and he struggles with social interaction, especially when speaking to girls. In fact, his foul-mouthed friend – we learn in the opening minutes of the programme – is greatly concerned that Carl’s dick might disappear it’s been so long that he’s been intimate with someone.

“For him to get attention from women is completely baffling. It’s not something that he’s used to at all,â€? says Russell Tovey when I spoke to him.

Russell might be playing a nervous introvert, but he couldn’t be more different than his hapless character in real life. Bouncy and talkative, he’s secure in his own skin and his dick, I can only imagine, is in no danger of disappearing. But nevertheless, he does admit that he relates to Carl in some ways.

“Well, we’ve all felt lonely, haven’t we?â€? he asks. “And we’ve all — at least I have — had obsessions with people who you think you’re in love with.â€?

In New Cross, Carl’s obsession is a teenage girl (Alice Saunders) with confidence and the sexual prowess of a much older woman. He meets her at a club that he’s been forced to go to by his friends. At first, he resists her advances, but eventually gives in and sleeps with her, only to find out later that she’s just fifteen-years-old.

“As their relationship blossoms, your reaction as a viewer is to say, ‘Let them get on with it,’â€? Russell explains. “But you can’t obviously because she’s just a child.â€?

Alice does an excellent job of playing the classic Lolita. She’s believable as both a confident young woman and as a naïve teenage girl and it puts the viewer in an awkward position.

“He’s less emotionally mature than she is, and so it makes things difficult. In a way, he seems like a child,â€? Russell says.

Perhaps where New Cross falters is when it tries to be funny. Carl’s friend, for example, too often treads the fine line between being a loveable, amusing prick and just being thoroughly odious and unlikable. One moment he’s making a light-hearted joke about boning women and the next he’s yelling, “WELL, AT LEAST I’M NOT A PAEDOPHILE!â€? at his supposed buddy.

At times it feels as if it’s trying to cover too much ground in too short a space of time, which results in a few underdeveloped secondary characters. But what makes New Cross interesting is that it manages to make you feel conflicted about Carl’s relationship. You’re invested in it from the start and so there’s a part of you that genuinely wants it to work out for him. He’s a likable character and one that you struggle to turn your back on.

“The budget for the programme was small,â€? Russell admits. “But it was great to work on. Everyone wanted to be there and everybody wanted to make really good work. I think Laura’s writing and David’s directing is fantastic, and Alice, I think, is fantastic. She never once seemed like the younger, less-experienced actress.

“It’s the kind of thing that ends up at festivals, but this is getting a proper screening on terrestrial TV, so people are going to be able to see something that’s very unique and very British.â€?

It might not be essential television by any means, but in terms of introducing new talent, New Cross certainly succeeds. It shows promise, and it should be interesting to see what Laura Neal and David Stoddart will deliver in the future.