When Simone’s first novel One Night is about to be published she conceals the fact from everybody that it is based on real life incidents.
While her book is seen as a triumph of survival of abuse, for Simone (Nicole da Silva) it’s also deeply personal. Incidents of 17 years ago will pervade Paramount+’s new 6 part drama, along with the way it ricochets on those who were there.
They include lawyer and friend Hat (Yael Stone) and Simone’s former teen girlfriend Tess (Jodie Whittaker) who, as it turns out, has chosen to return to Sydney from the UK with wife Vicki (Kat Stewart).
But Simone has not divulged having drawn upon real life for her new book, which is suddenly leading to second thoughts.
“This book is my f***ing life, Andrew. I can’t publish it,” she tells her agent.
Andrew (Chum Ehelepola) manages to find a middle ground by having the book published by Anonymous.
But there is also deep history between Simone and Tess, who are intimately intertwined in flashbacks… a romance derailed, perhaps?
Whilst navigating the impending fallout of publication, Simone is also caring for her ageing father (William Zappa) who lives on the picturesque NSW south coast where said incidents took place nearly two decades ago. There are also glimpses of local bad boys, someone imprisoned, the loss of Simone’s mother and unresolved secrets now rising to the surface after years of repression.
Suffice to say Simone is not coping with her choices despite the book presumably serving as some form of personal therapy.
The script by Emily Ballou and Fiona Seres focusses on key characters each episode (Simone ep 1, Hat ep 2 etc) to illustrate what happened all those years ago, juxtaposed with the angry reactions of its now-older source material coming to terms with the fact their lives are about to become the next best-seller.
Directors Lisa Matthews and Catherine Millar have assembled an impressive trio in Nicole da Silva, Jodie Whittaker and Yael Stone. Da Silva is engaging, forthright and relatable with her laconic personality and casual swearing. She also plays the topsy-turvy emotions of Simone with plenty of conviction.
Jodie Whittaker, to her credit, makes a passable Australian accent -which is kinda ironic given Kat Stewart plays her Brit wife (it might have made more sense to switch the casting, except that one is a lead, and the other support). Yael Stone moves quickly from anger to guilt and being consumed by tears as she learns the truth behind the book.
The drama works best when the trio are interacting and we watch them navigate the story’s faultlines in the present day.
There are also supporting roles from a windswept Tina Bursill, Noni Hazlehurst, Damien Strouthos, George Mason, Jeeremy Lindsay Taylor and Les Hill. The backdrop of the NSW coast is also alluring with its lush, green locations, rolling surf and looming clifftops. It belies the gravity of the One Night in question and how its victims were all so deeply affected.
Yet the central incident, which is constantly teased through flashbacks and young actors doubling as our leads, makes this a bit of a slow burn. By two episodes I was growing a little fatigued of the teases rather than becoming increasingly curious. I can’t help but wonder if this is a story that might play more effectively in movie-length form rather than pushing the friendship at 6 episodes.
At least there are strong leads to make the material sing. It’s great to see a premium Australian mystery, with a same-sex relationship, that will play internationally thanks to the appeal of its cast and setting.
One Night is now screening on Paramount+.