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Posts Tagged ‘British drama’

(C) BBC – Photographer: Des Willie

I’ve been aware of Sean Bean for a long time. He does action adventure-y, fantasy type things (Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, Equilibrium, Troy, Patriot Games, etc.) The fact that so many of the characters he plays die and quite violently is something of a cultural phenomenon. There are hashtags out there to prove it.

I also know he was an object of affection in the Vicar of Dibley…

That’s why I was so impressed to see Bean  in Broken, the Jimmy McGovern-penned BBC drama about a Catholic priest in a Northern English parish trying to serve his soul weary, poverty-stricken flock while wrestling with his own demons. If you’re not familiar with McGovern, he is the king of working class despair and I admire his ability to depict humanity and compassion in even the most desperate circumstances.

Sean was exquisite as Father Michael Kerrigan. Michael is a good man. He’s selfless, empathetic, fun-loving and approachable. He also notices when people are hurting and yearns to help them.

His dedication to God is strong and his desire to emulate Jesus is obvious in the rebellious incitement of his parishioners to smash up the local betting machines that have ruined so many lives.

And he is honest to a fault. When his mentor and friend Father Flaherty (Adrian Dunbar) advises him not to reveal a hurtful but irrelevant fact at an inquest, Michael feels compelled to admit to a brief slight of his duties to set the record straight.

But he’s not perfect. Sometimes he’s unsure what to say to make things better or how to ease his parishioners’ burdens. And no one is harder on Michael than he is on himself. He has flashbacks of his misdeeds and poor judgement. He also struggles to forgive the serious offenses committed against him in his youth.

While I watched Bean’s  performance I didn’t think of Ned Stark or Boromir or Richard Sharpe. I felt I was witnessing the authentic heart-felt efforts of a man of faith – to care for his dying mother, to comfort a mother who has lost her son, to counsel a police officer trying to do the right thing and to guide a desperate woman to take responsibility for a profane act.

Most compelling were his conversations with Roz (Paula Malcolmson), a woman shamed by what her gambling addiction led her to do and resigned to committing suicide over it.  She challenged Michael to show her a light at the end of the tunnel and also to confront the darkest episodes of his own past.

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We travel with Sean’s character through a wealth of emotions from impotence and grief to empowerment and grace. The end of that final episode made all the misery and striving worth every emotional second. I sat there with tears streaming down as the people who Michael thought he had disappointed, let him know otherwise. I’m not a religious person, but I think I would feel completely comfortable confiding in Father Kerrigan. Sean Bean’s portrayal combined an essence of benevolence and social justice tempered with very human self-doubt. It gave me a glimmer of hope in a time when people judge with haste and hate too easily.

I watched this six part series on the video sharing site, Dailymotion. Not ideal, but I hope Broken will eventually come to a reputable US streaming service or perhaps even PBS. More people should be aware of this inspiring journey and Bean’s must-see (and perhaps BAFTA-worthy) performance.

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Last time I talked about My Mad Fat Diary and how I found it refreshing and honest. Today I plan to tackle the remaining nominees in the Best Drama Series category: Top of the Lake, The Village, and Broadchurch. Why bunch them together in one post? For one thing, time is running short; the winners will be announced a week from today. And well… of the remaining nominees, I don’t have a huge amount to say about any one show.

Let’s begin with Top of the Lake, a mystery about a missing 12 year old pregnant girl, her dysfunctional family and a emotionally wounded police officer who won’t give up on finding the victim and uncovering her secret.

 

I learned very little about Britain from watching this series except one thing I already knew – Scotsman Peter Mullen is an outstanding actor who’s very good at being intimidating and a bit mad. As far as I know he’s the only British actor in a series which takes place in New Zealand and stars an American, Elizabeth Moss, playing a Kiwi.  Breathtaking locations, complex characters and a compelling story make it worth watching, but it’s not British telly no matter who finances it.

The Village is nominated for three awards – Best Drama Series, Best Supporting Actor (Nico Mirallegro) and Best Actress (Maxine Peake). It is a gritty story of a Derbyshire village at the beginning of WWI told through the eyes of young Bert Middleton (Bill Jones).

 

I have to admit I was only able to watch the first two episodes (that’s all I could find on YouTube) though at some point I think it should make its way to Netflix or some other streaming service.

What I learned about the UK in this time period was that life for the poor in the early 20th century was tough – war, back breaking physical work, and little semblance of respect from the upper classes. Also no surprise, alcoholism and mental illness were treated as personal weaknesses that drove those who suffered to very desperate actions.

I was interested to discover that the villagers used a public bath house for their hygiene needs, or at least the ladies did. Much like the modern day beauty parlor, it was apparently a place to share the news and the gossip too.

No doubt The Village is well-acted, but it was a bit of a chore to watch since the Middleton family faced so many hardships, and had so little hope. If a mother believed that sending her oldest child off to war was his best chance for a better life, you can only imagine the depressing state of their family situation. Perhaps if I’d been able to see more of the story I would have found something to feel uplifted about, but I can only speak to what I saw.

And finally we look at Broadchurch, a social media phenomenon so massive it spawned an American remake set to air sometime next fall. (We’ll talk about THAT situation later.) It’s a traditional police investigation/murder mystery with the urgency of a child victim.  In a town where everyone has a secret, it was a roller coaster ride of wrong turns, red herrings and a big shocking twist at the end.

Broadchurch is nominated in four categories: Best Drama, Best Actress (Olivia Colman), Best Supporting Actor (David Bradley) and sort of a people’s choice honor, the Radio Times Audience Award.

 

What did I learn about Britain? That UK writers (in this case, Chris Chibnall) are still the masters of the mystery genre. The English are a secretive bunch who don’t like to reveal anything to Scottish police officers. And that British beaches are not always rocky and gray…

Beach in West Bay Dorset

Beach in West Bay,  Dorset

 

I don’t know the way BAFTA voters tend to think. Will they choose the big ratings winner, Broadchurch? The highly acclaimed New Zealand series by the artsy,eccentric Jane Campion, Top of the Lake? The bleak, WWI social commentary, The Village?  Or my favorite, the teenage dramedy with a mental illness edge, My Mad Fat Diary? We’ll find out soon enough, and if my dark horse wins, you know I’ll be back here gently reminding you of my pick. I certainly won’t be doing a victory dance or rubbing it in anyone’s face…because that’s not the British way.

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