This is brutal TV.
Set in Inner London (Detford?) it’s written by its star, Lennie James, wearing a rather helpful bright yellow puffer jacket throughout, which aids recognition in long shots. Lennie James has a thirty year acting career but you can’t help thinking, as you immerse yourself in this torrid tale, that this is the part he was destined for. It will certainly take him up a step or two in the acting firmament.
Credit also goes to a truly brilliant cast of misfits, ne’er-do-wells, cross dressers, alcoholics, hard men, paedophiles, small time crooks, drug dealers, students and hookers.
This is Shameless with a purpose and far fewer laughs.
It’s brutal from start to finish; both upsetting and riveting.
It concerns the abduction of Nellie’s (James) daughter, Jody, from a previous relationship. He hasn’t seen since she was three but his is the number she calls at the timer of her disappearance. This immediately makes him prime suspect with the police.
But Nellie’s no child abductor. He’s too busy maintaining his mildly alcoholic lifestyle which involves his moving from one girlfriend to another (he has four) in his ‘manor’. Dodging and diving he ‘makes a living’ and spends all his spare time in the local pub where all his ‘family’ hang out and where he brashly lords it.
His ex and the girl’s mum, played extremely convincingly by Suranne Jones, are brought back together in the search for the girl, as the police take on something of a ‘Three Billboards’ type of half-hearted investigation. But Nellie’s having none of that. He wages his own investigation that takes him into an underworld of paedophile rings under the cover of his pal Melon, a convicted paedophile, played sympathetically by Stephen Graham. He pulls off a tough part really well.
It’s a harrowing watch and every character plays their part in making it a too hard to call police procedural with a big difference (no police). The story avoids cliche and maintains credibility throughout.
It’s tough. But it’s great. And the loose ending promises more quality in series two.