Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Moving On (Part One)

As the Bank Holiday weather turned out to be remarkably nice, I took some time out. But now it's time to look at the recent Moving On series that was stripped across BBC1 last week at 2:15pm. For those who don't know, the series was produced by Colin Mckeown and Jimmy McGovern, the same illustrious team behind the sublime The Street.

The first story was called The Rain Has Stopped and was written by Karen Brown. It was about long time widow Liz (Shelia Hancock), returning from holiday with a fiance, the Nepalese former Gurkha, Damar, much to the dismay of her grown up children. Almost the first line of dialogue from the daughter is "he's black," (whereas he is in fact Asian) and the casual racism from the children was a little shocking. Then there was the whispering from mothers in the school playground when Liz picked up her grandchildren. I'm not being naive, really I'm not. Racism is still a massive problem and issue, but the way it was portrayed here felt like a throwback to the eighties. I was never convinced about where the animosity from the children came from. They were in their thirties/forties, divorced and with children themselves, and so the old 'your not good enough to replace my dad' seemed a bit over the top. Later, the neighbour suspects Damar as a burglar, because "we've had trouble with asylum seekers before." There was a lot of talk about his visa status, ability to work or not, and what rights he should or shouldn't have as a former Gurkha and British soldier.

So a lot of ideas and themes were being juggled, and personally the racism and asylum aspect felt old. Gurkha rights on the other hand would've been far more interesting and incredibly timely! But there were other, more fundamental problems with the story. I'm not a big fan of general sweeping rules, but one that is pretty solid is that no two characters should be exactly the same, i.e. have the same opinions, world view, personalities etc. What would be the point? But here, the two children were identical. Surely it would have been far more interesting, create more conflict, and therefore more drama, if one of the children would've been happy for their mother, or at least just okay with it. Other things just didn't make sense. There were technical errors with regards to visa rules and benefits (being disabled and married to an American, I know a bit about both,) and having been reported to working without the right to, Damar just lost his job, but got no visit from the police! I realise this isn't such a story telling disaster, but it did smack as sloppy research.

In the end Damar leaves because the rift between Liz and her children is destroying her relationship with her grandchildren. But Liz is distraught and her children finally realise that maybe it's okay and for the best that she has found happiness with another man. So they encourage her to go off and find him. We subsequently find out she did find him, and they went on another holiday (not sure how as they had very little money.) But the weirdest thing was that the moment Liz finds Damar, surely the scene with the most dramatic and emotional potential, happened off screen. By the time they got back from holiday, and we are led to believe married, everything is fine, they are welcomed with opened arms, and all live happily ever after. I'm not quite sure what had changed, apart from the children seeing how upset their mother was when he left. Maybe that was enough, but she'd told them enough times. Yes, actions speak louder than words, but there needed to be more of a shift in the family dynamics for us to believe it.

And before all that, during the darkest moment of the story, we got voiceover recaps of some of the key bits of dialogue. I mean really, was that necessary during one, single, forty-five minute show!? It wasn't difficult to remember what we needed to remember and it just felt so hackneyed. There was also some odd scene juxtapositions, and therefore, despite some nice, quiet moments between the leads (matched by their performances) the whole thing felt unbalanced. I couldn't help feel that for this story, one strong theme would've been more effective than throwing in three or four. So all in all a slightly inauspicious start for the series. But come back tomorrow to see how the next installment fared.


rob said...

I was terribly excited about Moving On and taped each days play to watch later. When I finally got around to watching this first one I was horribly disappointed.

The racism seemed to be from another era and the supporting characters were ghastly without exception. How on Earth did Liz find Damar with no indication where he was headed? Small world it seems.

There were two lovely performances from Sheila Hancock and Bhasker Patel but overall it was deeply unsatisfactory and so far I haven't bothered watching any of the others.

Also, if I'm honest, I thought The Street was just McGovern retreading what Paul Abbott had already done with Clocking Off.

Jez Freedman said...

Can't say I disagree with you about this episode but stick with the series as 3 is very good and 4 is worth a watch too.

I thought The Street was excellent though. Everything is a retread of something, but it's the stories and characters that count. For me, The Street delivered on both virtually every time