Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Murdered by my Boyfriend

A 'does what it says on the tin' title that nonetheless doesn't do justice to this hour-long drama based on a real case.  We have nothing against BBC3, but don't often watch it, and this was a worthwhile exception.  17-year-old Ashley (Georgina Campbell) meets Reece (Royce Pierreson) at a party.  They have friends in common and even went to the same school, and their obvious mutual attraction soon blossoms into a relationship that has Ashley telling friends she's happy and in love.  Reece, however, has a possessive streak and strange ideas about domestic harmony, and things turn sour when Ashley discovers she is pregnant.  He promises her the earth to keep their baby, but refuses to live with her and is unfaithful.  His short fuse has him lashing out, in front of their daughter, and his physical strength and manipulative talk inflicts real damage on her bodily and mental health.

The spoiler is in the title, but what makes this worth watching are the nuanced performances from the leads (and nice to see Kate Hardie on screen again).  They are good enough to make you understand what is often incomprehensible: why would anyone stay with a violent partner?  Ashley is young, impressionable and in love, wanting a father for her daughter, and drained of her natural confidence by her intimidating boyfriend.  He has a predator's instinct for undermining her, and literally and metaphorically battering her into submission to his will.

A brave drama.  The news may feature celebrity-led protest against gender-based atrocities abroad, but domestic violence on our doorstep is on the rise too.


Intriguing Irish crime drama about the disappearance of a fourteen-year-old girl and the desperate search by her parents.  Each of the four episodes covers different aspects of the same timeline, from the day she went missing to almost two years later.  It makes good use of the device in slow reveals of Amber's story and its aftermath, with the slow and painful disintegration of the family, and aside from a slightly contrived third episode around a mobile phone (no spoilers) it's gripping and harrowing stuff.

In opting for the life-like route, though, it probably splits its audience.  It's a haunting exploration of how much damage is caused by a lost child, but it lacks a dramatically satisfying end and leaves many loose ends: will Amber's father Ben continue his efforts on the 'dark web' and risk imprisonment?  What part did the prisoner who knew about the mermaid mural play?  Why did Amber get off the train in the middle of nowhere?  How did her lamp end up in the water?  Is the man on the beach with his dog a suspect?  And what about the boy in the chatroom, who was in Nerissa's with Amber's friend who said she didn't know him?  Intriguing, but frustrating.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Penny Dreadful

Penny Dreadful, Sky Atlantic's new huge-budget, high-concept TV drama began last week.  It's dripping with high production values, but at the same time it's a strange mix of things.

First, it reminds us of Alan Moore.  Like Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it mixes various iconic stories and characters into a steampunk sort of setting.  While League had Alan Quartermain, Tom Sawyer and Captain Nemo, Penny has Frankenstein, but also overlaps with Dorian Grey and Mina Harker from Dracula.

Second, it reminds us of Ripping Yarns.  Ripping Yarns deliberately set out to debunk this sort of tosh (particularly in the episode The Curse of The Claw), and also loved getting cameos from famous friends.

Within these confines it's pretty good, and it's great to see Timothy Dalton in such a meaty role, but as with a lot of the recent Sky stuff, it's not as good as it thinks it is.  Yes, it's suspenseful...  but one person's 'nail-biting suspense' is another person's 'get on with it', and more often than not we fall into the second camp.