“They’ve been the perfect neighbors. So I can’t believe a thing like this could happen.”
Mary has known Vivien for more than 40 years now, ever since Vivien and her husband Terry moved to the seashore from London. She’s watched their three children grow up: Helen, the eldest, into a successful businesswoman currently serving as interim CEO for a chain of struggling hospitals; Jake, from a naughty boy into a personal trainer and loving dad to his girls; and Natalie, who went from wanting a career in the arts to an office job.
Vivien owned a hair salon in town, but gave it up during Terry’s illness. After his death, she began seeing a retired doctor, Mark. And now something terrible has happened.
When Vivien announces her relationship to her children, Jake is upset that she has moved on so quickly—which makes sense, given that he is currently living separately from his wife, Leila, and daughters. Your dad was “no angel,” Vivien says under her breath. Mary believes the last ten years of Vivien’s marriage were not happy.
Mark makes Vivien happy, however. He takes her on a surprise weekend trip to a French beach she recalls fondly from childhood. He was so keen on it being a surprise that he searched through her things for her passport, so they would have it without her needing to pack it. That overstep is forgiven, but his proposal of marriage goes over less well. After so many decades of marriage, Vivien is enjoying her independence for now.
Whereas Jake admires the longevity of his parents’ marriage, his sisters are less inclined to support their father, believing the “no angel” comment means he had an affair. That’s familiar ground for Natalie, who is sleeping with her married boss. He has even showed her a house, offering to buy it for them and leave his wife. He gives her the weekend to think about it.
But as she drops him off at his home, his wife leans into her car. I know what you’re doing, she says, and you’ll never win.
Helen’s husband George is the only person in the family who knows about Natalie’s affair. He fears it won’t turn out well, especially since Natalie wants to have kids.
George almost seems to get along better with Natalie than Helen. He’s a put-upon stay-at-home dad, and has started to feel like one of Helen’s employees rather than her partner, as he tells her when she tries to have a romantic evening with him. Even their daughter Lily notices the tension.
Helen doesn’t seem to get along with many people. She has fired numerous employees in an acrimonious restructuring, and one of them in particular is furious at her.
Jake also has his issues. His separation from Leila has something to do with a large debt he owes. She doesn’t want to reunite until it’s paid, and Jake is working to do so in part through a special relationship with a client. Not only does he train her, he also sleeps with her for money, although she seems genuinely interested in him and his family. When a rental she owns opens up, she offers to let Jake stay there rent-free instead of paying for the sex, but he refuses the arrangement.
Jake and Natalie are unconsciously following in their father’s footsteps. Natalie visits Vivien and asks her about her “no angel” comment, and Vivien admits that Terry had an affair. It lasted some years, and only stopped when Vivien told him she’d keep it from the kids if he ended it.
Now Vivien has Mark, who has apologized for the proposal—it was too soon. But he hopes to eventually marry Vivien, when she’s ready.
He soon gets a chance to live with her, at least for a bit. Vivien collapses for unknown reasons and is brought to the hospital. When she is discharged, Mark takes care of her at her home, offering her food and a mild tranquilizer if she feels she needs it. When the children come visit, they decide to set up a rotation to check on her. But there’s no need, she tells them; Mark will stay with her for a bit. He can watch and help her while they wait for test results.
Jake is angrily opposed; they barely know Mark. But Natalie defends the plan; Mark makes Vivien happy, and that’s all that matters. Helen is skeptical but swayed by the fact that Mark was a doctor.
At a pub later, the three children argue over their mother’s relationship. Jake and Helen fear Mark is dating Vivien for her money, while Natalie believes they’re truly in love. The discussion devolves into ad hominem attacks: Helen and Jake are resentful that Terry helped Natalie buy a house years ago, Helen says Jake would blow any money betting on horses, and Jake comments on Helen’s extensive drinking. Everyone leaves upset.
Helen spends the night vomiting in her bathroom; her daughter surreptitiously films her. Jake changes his mind and takes his client’s offer of a rental. And Natalie calls the man she’s sleeping with and tells him she’s pregnant. He’s in the middle of a dinner party and can’t talk; they’ll speak Monday. She smashes her phone after he hangs up.
What about Mary, the watchful neighbor? She’s not so innocent either. She signs for one of Vivien’s packages and steams it open, enjoying the luxury of the silk robe inside for herself—until she spills on it. She cleans it, packs it back up, and gives it to Vivien. Later, she watches Vivien and Mark on their porch with binoculars—and Mark notices.
And the terrible incident all this is leading up to, that left someone fighting for their life in the hospital? It might not have been an accident.