When TV does get social issues right

John Simm as Tom in ExileThis week saw the transmission of the three-part drama on the BBC called Exile. It was an excellent piece that featured superb acting from John Simm, Olivia Colman (who you’ll know from Peep Show and Rev) and the ever-brilliant Jim Broadbent.

The BBC’s description of the programme is thus: ‘Psychological thriller that tells a story of prodigal redemption, as a son returns to his hometown to reconnect with his father and learn the truth about what happened between them years before.’

What made this drama different was the portrayal of social issues, in this case Alzheimer’s and the burden of caring for a loved one.

This drama was ostensibly about a father/son relationship, but the treatment of Jim Broadbent’s character’s Alzheimer’s was truly heartening to see and his performance, in particular, was mesmerising.

In addition, Olivia Colman’s lot as a put-upon single carer was a matter-of-fact part of the plot, rather than the reason for the entire drama.

Even down to the small things, such as the mention of Carer’s Allowance and the way Power of Attorney is decided, made it seem very real.

The distinction here is a fine one, but normally a disability or ‘social issue’ is the fundamental building block of a plot, but with Exile, that wasn’t the case. For that reason, along with the fine writing, acting and directing, we should applaud Exile and the BBC for commissioning it.

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