Monday, 1 June 2009

Moving On (Part Five)

Moving On concluded with Butterfly Effect by Esther Wilson. (To my knowledge this is her first screen credit although she appears to be an experienced playwright.) To be honest, this story had a weird title (yes I know what it means) for a confused story. Initially it had the biggest cast, and that contributed in making the opening far more confusing than the previous episodes, which had been characterised by a very clear ‘this is our theme today.’

Essentially the story was about Sylvie, who works at a youth home shelter type thing (I really wasn’t sure) and one night, lets in a young man who lives there who is being chased home by a gang of youths. The twist is that this guy is in a heightened state and wielding a gun. However Sylvie is the only one who sees the gun (or so we are led to believe, although later it’s revealed a colleague did but kept quite to either protect herself or the boy, something that is never followed up on,) so the police are powerless.

Sylvie though is traumatised by the incident, doesn’t want to leave the house any more, keeps texting and checking up on her son at uni, and goes as far as handing in her resignation at work. The trouble is, I didn’t believe any of this. I don’t mean to be glib. I’m sure anyone who has been in proximity to a gun wielding man can be very badly affected. But Sylvie wasn’t really threatened, like she says she was. Jacko, the boy, yells at her to open the locked door so he can escape the youths (let’s ignore the fact that he had a gun so surely had the upper hand.) I don’t think that at any point he actually threatens to harm Sylvie. So her reaction seems completely over the top. Life goes on, right? Again, I don’t mean to be flippant, but I found it interesting that Sylvie’s mate, Barbara, basically says as much in the script. I seriously wonder whether this was included to flag up and pre-empt what everyone assumed the audience would be thinking. This can sometimes be clever writing, as long as there is a pay off as to the real reason for Sylvie’s reaction (like she’d been the victim of a bad attack when younger or something and it evoked repressed memories.) But nothing was forthcoming.

Then all of a sudden another witness to the gun comes forward, offscreen and who we never meet, but now it means the police can prosecute. This could’ve been really interesting. It’s something that we could all relate to and a theme that I have always found fascinating. What motivates have a go heroes? What would I do if I had to testify against someone dangerous? Is it better to turn a blind eye and protect myself and my family or should I do the ‘right’ thing? If the Butterfly Effect had been about this, we could’ve been in for a cracking drama. As it was, this was all handled very quickly, and essentially resolved by a bizarre confrontation between Sylvie and Jacko.

I’m not sure witnesses are allowed to approach defendants on the street, shout at them for ruining their life, pretend to have either a gun or a mobile phone in their bag, and then hit them round the head with the phone. I think it would probably jeopardise the case. But this is exactly what happened. And it concluded with Sylvie retracting her resignation and turning up in court to testify against Jacko. Well and truly ‘moved on.’ So all she needed to get over her massive emotional trauma was to yell at him. I don’t mean to be pedantic, but the whole thing seemed to be a missed opportunity with a potentially cracking theme, but just turned out to be rather ill conceived.

Which was a shame, because I think the series as a whole was very worthwhile, with some good writing and hey, it’s better than watching repeats of Diagnosis Murder. Jimmy McGovern must be applauded for, along with The Street, his one-man crusade to surreptitiously bring back the play for today. It’s pie in the sky of course because the world has run out of money, but wouldn’t it be nice if the BBC could do more of these, along with Doctors, and the recent Missing, and have three home grown daytime dramas to offer opportunities to new writers?

1 comment:

Shane Knight said...

"...but wouldn’t it be nice if the BBC could do more of these, along with Doctors, and the recent Missing, and have three home grown daytime dramas to offer opportunities to new writers?"

Here here.