Paul McGann delivers a compelling performance in the period thriller “The Undertaker”, delving into buried emotions in a dark and mysterious setting.


This subtle thriller is set in the late 1950s to early 1960s, evident from the costumes. It pays homage to the regional British crime movies of that time, where small-time gangsters and showy conmen fight for control over the black market for ration cards. Writer and director Michael Wright clearly has a fondness for this era and makes sure to accurately portray the slang used in this story about Arthur Morel (played by Paul McGann), a reserved undertaker who becomes entangled with local gangster Finlay (played by Roger Barclay) in a Northern town. Finlay enlists Arthur’s help in disposing of the extra bodies generated by his shady business, which he refers to as “loose ends.”

The reason for Arthur’s decision to engage in this questionable additional business is not immediately apparent. It could possibly be linked to his deceased brother, who had a tendency to gamble and ended up in problems with Finlay. Or, it could simply be that Arthur desires extra money. It is difficult to determine due to McGann’s restrained and tense portrayal of a man fixated on maintaining a strict separation between his professional and personal lives, both literally and figuratively.

Wright and his team intentionally decrease the color intensity and prefer shades of brown and grey in the production and costume design, creating an overall appearance reminiscent of weak tea. This can become somewhat overwhelming, but there are a few standout moments, such as an over-the-top monologue delivered by Tara Fitzgerald as a bitter nightclub singer, delving into the physics and metaphysics of snooker. While the writing may come off as pretentious, Fitzgerald delivers it flawlessly. Additionally, the late character actor Murray Melvin makes a charming appearance in one of his final roles as Lenny, Arthur’s retired colleague who calmly awaits his own impending death and has strong opinions on the type of coffin he wants.