Ten Days in the Valley
Pentimento Productions, 2017-18
Tassie Cameron, Steve Robin, et al
📷 : Photo by John Joumaa on Unsplash
Mysteries or whodunnits
Ten Days in the Valley puts the fundamentals of story writing on screen with Kyra Sedgwick (The Closer, Brooklyn Nine-Nine) as the protagonist and her missing daughter as the complication. The quest to find the child is depicted in a fast-paced and ever-evolving series of rising actions, reminiscent of the 1999 film Double Jeopardy and 2002 release, High Crimes, both featuring Ashley Judd in the lead roles.
The three works are similar in storyline with respect to the search for people and answers. The older films were high adrenalin and focused on ‘who done it’ and ‘is it true?’ In contrast and consistent with classical story writing, the ever-present sense of frustration and need for a resolution best define the feel of Ten Days in the Valley.
Not only is the ten-episode series a clinic for story writing, but Sedgwick gives aspiring screenwriters a glimpse inside the writer’s room on the studio lot. Her character, Jane Sadler, frantically searches for Lake, her precocious 8-year-old daughter played by Abigail Pniowsky (The Rest of Us, Arrival), while trying to keep the production of her new television drama on-track and on-schedule. Despite being encouraged to take a sabbatical, she continues to work though preoccupied with the whereabouts of her child.
It is not an entirely unfamiliar story about an overstressed, career-minded single mother dealing with an ex‑husband. In this case though, Jane is what her ex-husband, Pete, played by Kick Gurry (Edge of Tomorrow, Spartan), refers to as “a high functioning, award-winning documentary filmmaker.” And this was not meant as a compliment.
In the middle of a career change, Jane is switching from documentary to fictional drama, compounding her stress with a self-imposed insistence that there is no room for mistakes. Ironically, she and everyone in her circle compound the struggles to find Lake (and confound police efforts to do the same) by obfuscating the truth at every turn. Every character has an agenda in this story, and everyone has a secret. But as the adage goes, “Everything done in the dark comes to light.”
A dominant underlying theme of the series is that lying takes a lot of work. Not only does it expend physical and emotional energy, but it also adds stress to already stressful lives. It keeps us from being at our best when pursuing endeavors—whether they be our careers, our hobbies, or just getting some much-needed rest.
At one point, Matt, played by Malcolm Jamal Warner (The Cosby Show, Reed Between the Lines), declares “Truth is just another story. Another good story that’s gotta be told, right?” Ten Days in the Valley gets us to think of our own made-up stories—also known as lies—as an alternate truth. And that maybe if we just start with the truth, we can make life so much easier for ourselves.