Boat Story – Review

Worth seeing: for the dark-humour and twisted violence of a crime drama that feels like it's come from the minds of the Coen brothers
Featuring:Daisy Haggard, Paterson Joseph, Tchéky Karyo, Adam Gillen, Cherie Gordon, Craig Fairbrass, Ethan Lawrence, Jason Pennycooke, Joanna Scanlan, John Henshaw, John O'Neill, Kate Dickie, Lucy Montgomery, Matthew Mellalieu, Michele Austin, Ólafur Darri Ólafsson, Oliver Sheridan, Paul-Hector Antoine, Phil Daniels, Rick S Carr, William Fox
Key crew:Alice Troughton, Daniel Nettheim, Matthew Bird, Harry Williams, Jack Williams, Sophie Goodhart
Channel:BBC iPlayer, BBC1
Length:56 minutes
Broadcast date:19th November 2023


Janet (Daisy Haggard) is having a bit of a hard time. She’s recently lost a hand in an industrial accident and her ex-husband won’t let her see his son from an earlier relationship, even though the boy regards Janet as his mother.

While walking on a beach one day, she gets chatting to lawyer Samuel (Paterson Joseph) and together they stumble across a small fishing boat, washed up on the shore. Inside it, they find a haul of drugs.

Both down on their luck and needing a bit of money, they agree to take the drugs and try to sell them to a local gang, whose leader Vinnie (Adam Gillen) puts a little too much faith in a local clairvoyant (Kate Dickie).

But the owner of the drugs, a French dealer known as The Tailor (Tchéky Karyo), manages to trace them, with a little help from his no-nonsense enforcer, Guy (Craig Fairbrass).

As Janet and Samuel find themselves getting ever more involved with both Vinnie’s gang and the Tailor, a young police officer (Ethan Lawrence) is doing a better job than the rest of the force in trying to put all the pieces together.


The Coen brothers have long since brought their 1990s crime thriller Fargo to the small screen – but if they’d have done it in the UK, it would’ve been Boat Story. With unsuspecting everyday folk instinctively carrying out a crime on a whim – and then falling foul of real criminals – the basic ingredients would fit into almost any early Coen brothers production.

With sudden, unexpected bursts of violence, surreal twists, a dogged police officer and a knowing voiceover, Boat Story will have fans of crime drama hooked from the start.

The darkly comic undertones ensure that Daisy Haggard feels at home and Paterson Joseph is more than up to the task of rising from supporting to lead character. The villains are delightful offbeat, if bordering on the arch.

Told over six hour-long episodes, it does feel a little drawn out by the end; some of the sub-plots could have been trimmed to bring the running time in at a more efficient four hours.

It’s wicked fun, but while the set-up and early episodes are packed full of engaging and believable shocks and surprises, as it approaches its denouement, the narrative starts to feel a little less convincing.