TV Review: Broken

2 Jul

Michael would you fuck me?


You heard.

[long pause]

I can’t .. [long pause] .. I can’t. I’m sure it would be a wonderful experience, Roz. But I can’t.

What Roz Demichel, forty-five year old mother of three, is proposing is not incest, though she does usually address Michael as ‘Father’. That’s on account of his being her priest, her very catholic priest. The city, clearly northern, is not named but its plethora of Irish accents puts me in mind of Liverpool, despite Sean Bean’s habitual Sheffield brogue as he plays the haunted, flawed and heroically human shepherd to a flock struggling in the main under ‘austerity’. Those slightly better off have their own struggles. Michael was abused as a child by the Church; Roz has embezzled £232,684 – she has a steel trap literality in these final days – from her employer, and means to take her own life. This being Jimmy McGovern, so not without bleak humour, Roz ups the temptation level (‘get thee behind me’ springs to mind, though not Satan) by pointing out, with neither Father Michael nor us in any doubt on the seriousness and imminence of her overarching intent, that no one need know.

I’ve never before been wowed by Bean but, in Broken, McGovern gives him the role of a lifetime and he steps up to the plate with quietly mesmerising effect. Nor does he lack support from an equally compelling cast. As for McGovern, who surely now stands with the greats of TV drama, Dennis Potter not excepted, Roz’s is but one of several unenviable crises for the inhabitants of this six parter from the man who gave us Priest (yes, he’s been here before), Hillsborough and The Street.

Why does Christina Fitzsimmons (Brookside escapee Anna Friel) delay notifying the authorities of her mother’s death? How can Father Michael help? How in all conscience can we, voyeurs inextricably implicated, condemn the decent copper and family man if, betrayed by everyone but his priest, he caves in to pressure to produce a statement of utter mendacity in respect of a white on black, fatal police shooting?

In reference to the Handmaid’s Tale I spoke of the current period as a golden age for TV drama. I cited Line of Duty, Happy Valley and Hollow Crown but could have named many more. Broken rides the very crest of this to me – doomsayer who foresaw only mediocrity in the proliferation of channels and consequent audience fragmentation – astonishing wave.

2 Replies to “TV Review: Broken

  1. I agree that it was extremely well-written, well-acted and well-produced.
    It portrayed a number of problems that were the outcome of social ills. But it’s solutions were all individual. There was no hint (other than smashing the machines) about how these problems could be prevented by social or collective measures. We are left isolated, frustrated, individualised and dependent on individual acts of compassion.
    The central question for me – what is to be done? – was ignored.
    So, for me, it was hugely disappointing. Another example of misery-art, a depiction of mysery without resolution.
    The producer of “Cathy come home” was asked at Doc Fest the other year whether he thought the film had had any impact on solving the housing crisis that it depicted. He answered: “no, in fact the situation has continued to get worse”.

    • Your first sentence reflects the long and short of it as far as I’m concerned Doug. I look to drama, this kind anyway,for sensitive and authentic treatment of some aspect of the human condition. I’d no more expect McGovern to address the question of What is to Be Done than I’d expect Shakespearian tragedy to offer solutions to Elizabethan infant mortality. In a revolutionary epoch it might – MIGHT – be different…

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