Walter Presents are about to launch a season of productions from Eastern Europe, and ‘Four Strangers’ is the first. And it sets the bar pretty high.
If you want to avoid all spoilers, stop reading this article now.
Set in Zagreb, Croatia, it is the story of four strangers – logically enough – whose paths end up being interwoven one evening when a violent death occurs. The technique of taking various unattached characters and putting them in a situation whereby their lives become forever entwined isn’t new, of course. The Nicola Walker drama, ‘Unforgotten’, is the benchmark against which all such slow burners are measured. It’s an effective way of building the drama gradually over each episode, as we learn more about the characters, how they found themselves in the situation they’re in, their shortcomings and their charms. And ‘Four Strangers’ does that rather well.
The four main characters are Vinka, Haris, Blanka and Kiki. They all live in the same area, but their paths had never knowingly crossed – until that night. Vinka (Iva Mihalic) is a middle-class mother and banker who, whilst stuck in traffic with her young daughter, is attacked by a smartly dressed man for no apparent reason. Haris (Uliks Fehmiu) is an architect who seems to be going through some sort of breakdown which results in him taking his office cleaner to a business meeting. Blanka (Tara Thaller, who bears a striking resemblance to a young Margot Robbie) is a beautiful schoolgirl who is being abused by both her unpleasant wealthy boyfriend and her equally unpleasant father. And finally, Kiki (Toni Gojanovic – who was in the C4 drama, ‘Before We Die’ last year) is a young unemployed father who is desperate to keep his apartment.
As we follow the tale of each character, we see them passing in the street, in traffic, or in the park, oblivious to each other for now. Each of them is wrapped up in their own little world, until they’re reluctantly brought together.
On the strength of the opening episode, I’m totally hooked. Inevitably, the first 40 minutes or so is back-story, as we learn about each main character, their relationships and life challenges. But when the incident that brings them together occurs, you immediately buy into their predicament. And what is quite nice is that you’re rooting for all of them. You or I could be find ourselves in the same quandary. What would you do?
This won’t do much for Croatian tourism, as there are some unsavoury characters and moments of extreme violence. Mostly this is dealt with sensitively; however, there are a couple of scenes of violence against woman that are a difficult watch.
But overall, this is a triumph. The acting is impressive and the storyline intriguing. I hope it continues to impress.
Incidentally, if you search for Four Strangers on IMDB, you won’t find it. It appears to be known as Success (or Uspjeh in its original language) and is the first HBO original series to come out of Croatia.
Walter Presents: ‘Four Strangers’ launches on Channel 4 on 17th July at 11pm. The full box set is available on Walter Presents via All 4 from Friday 15th July.