Thirroul’s landscape and three women’s stories illuminate One Night

Friendship, memory, betrayal and a vicious crime: a new Paramount Plus series explores the long-standing ties that bind three women and the explosive mystery that could drive them apart. A character-driven premier drama, One Night centres on the nature of buried memories, shifting viewpoints and the heart-tearing mystery which has coloured the lives of the main characters for nearly two decades.

Starring Jodie Whittaker, from Dr Who and Broadchurch, and Australian actors Yael Stone, from Orange is the New Black, and Nicole da Silva, from Doctor Doctor and Wentworth, the Paramount Plus series is mostly set in the scenic coastal district around Thirroul and Austinmer, just north of Wollongong in NSW.

The structure of this original Australian six-part series highlights the mystery at the heart of the story. Two episodes are crafted from the point of view of each female lead. The contrasts and changing focus illustrate the distortions of trauma and time on memory. Viewers understand a little more after each episode as the series uncovers the shifting truth as seen from each of the three women’s different perspectives.

Memory is subjective, often informed by the ways in which other people, particularly friends, have seen things: a night that was etched in pain becomes blurred and layered with misperceptions over time.

Sophia Mogford, Network 10 and Paramount executive producer (drama and comedy), expects great things from One Night. She says the series has now been sold in the United Kingdom on the strength of the script alone and she thinks the global themes of unreliable memories and strong women’s friendships will captivate audiences around the world.

A showcase for Australian talent, One Night stars two Australian women (and one Briton) leading an ensemble cast of Australians. Created and written by award-winning Emily Ballou (The Slap, Taboo) and directed by both Catherine Millar (The Twelve, The Secrets She Keeps) and Lisa Matthews (Doctor Doctor, The PM’s Daughter) the series uses fluid flashbacks to tell the half-buried story; a narrative that twists and turns as powerful emotions swirl between the three main characters and long-covered psychological wounds are ripped open.

“Emily Ballou had the idea; she’s been writing this story for a long, long time,” Mogford says. “She has spoken to a lot of women about elements of this experience.”

Ballou wrote a treatment, the idea for the series and an early script and Mogford says she read it and quickly realised it was “quite special”. Once it was commissioned, Ballou got to work writing and rewriting all six episodes of One Night, and she was still writing the last episode while filming was underway:

Decades have elapsed since the violent night at the heart of the series. Best friends as teenagers, the three women have papered over the too-difficult memories in one way or another, two in Australia and one in Britain where she fled and lived for decades after the trauma of One Night.

Friendships formed in the late teens and early twenties years are enduring and mostly easily resumed even after decades of absence. But lies and secrecy can taint even the closest of relationships. Finally reunited, the trio of friends try and navigate their difficult history.

One of the three women has realised a long-held ambition and written a novel: but is she telling her own story or has she stolen her friends’ trauma and transformed it into a work of fiction? As she panics about the possible consequences of her literary debut and the likelihood it will bring One Night’s life-altering trauma to the surface, will her fibs and manoeuvrings derail the friendships forever?

One Night is a shape-shifting series that poses hard questions: sifting through different women’s memories, dissecting the women’s varying truths and asking who has the right to tell the story?

The series spans generations: one of the three women is caring for an elderly and confused father, another has teenagers of her own who create their own problems, and these youngsters then become tangled in the trauma of the past.

Mogford says the directors have used the Thirroul district’s dramatic and changeable landscapes to frame the narrative and the fluid flashbacks in the series provide a window on the dark events of the past.

“The fluidity of memory and experience is very evident onscreen as well as in the language and in the story-telling,” she notes, adding the dramatically-changing scenes of land and sea echo the storyline. “There’s a sinister side of the sea – it can be so welcoming and beautiful but then extremely treacherous.”

Landscapes around Thirroul and Austinmer – the crashing white waves and blue sea, and the soaring forested escarpment – shine on camera, Mogford says, and the snaking coast road which dominates an early scene in One Night is visually stunning.

 Mogford says Paramount Plus is proud to screen this complex, psychologically-driven series that explore character and motive: a genre popular with women audiences who often seek deeper meaning in drama. Yet while there are no tire-squealing car chases or cliff-hanging stunts in One Night, the unfolding story-telling and the incrementally exposed violent mystery at the heart of the series will draw in viewers of all ages and genders.

One Night is now screening on Paramount Plus.

The Australian