Ex-heroin addict Richard is determined to stay clean but after being hauled in for police questioning thanks to a crooked friend he misses his contact visit with daughter Sabrina and learns from his ...
Illegal Chinese immigrant Ying is dependent upon Gao, brutal leader of the Snakehead gang, who sends her onto the streets of Brixton selling fake DVDs and fenced accessories. When she fails to earn ...
S1: Well acted but overly 'gritty' in its material and presentation
This four-parter is set in and around an area of poverty in London; we have four stories that do not intertwine so much as bolt together at either end, with one character connecting to the next in a way. The four stories sees a mother struggling with two teenage boys and a history of male violence; a recovering junkie trying to get back with his estranged daughter; a Chinese illegal selling DVDs to pay off a debt, and forced to do much worse when she falls short; and a Polish cleaner who finds herself needing money and turning to arranged marriages to help. All of the stories are very gritty and downbeat in their tone; there is not a lot of cheer or joy in these films and as the free paper The Metro observed at the time, it was very odd scheduling to show the series in the height of the summer in 2013, which had great weather, sporting achievement in Wimbledon and the Ashes and generally a great positive air to the country – into which these tales of misery were dropped.
For me watching them in October 2014, they perhaps fit a bit better as the nights close in and the UK settles into a typically grey and wet Autumn. The series itself really doesn't need any distractions from the grim grittiness – because it really goes all out for that tone and needs the viewer to be in the mood for that. From the very first episode we have senseless violence, lots of swearing and very little sense of hope or positive vibes; this continues through the episodes as none of the stories hold back from where they are or where they are going – we are firmly in grim, gritty territory here, make no mistake. If anything I think it really does push it too far; at 45 minutes (without adverts) the plots are pretty contained and really have no space for small moments, so if violence or despair can be unleashed, it certainly will be – and soon. The excessiveness is not necessarily gratuitousness, but it does mean that it is very direct, very full- on and doesn't have many smaller touches or nuance to draw the viewer in – you're either with it or you're not.
Fortunately one of the areas where the film does very well is with the casting, and it is here where a lot of good work is done to offset the blunt grimness of the material. This is most evident in the first film where we have the nation's favorite Olivia Colman showing why she does despair better than most. Okay her character is blunt and has obvious 'look, we're gritty' dialogue full of swearing, but she brings out a great character, showing small things about violence in particular (she is a victim of male violence but also happen to use that fear on others when it suits her). The final scene in her episode in particular is excellent. Lennie James is almost as good, as indeed is Leung, who is a long way from Hogwarts here. Schüttler is okay but the least engaging of the episodes, while below this level the characters are a bit more generic and, while they are delivered well, they have less to work with and are more functional, in line with the material given them.
Run is worth a look if you are after a grim and gritty self- contained drama, because on this front it really does a decent job. However it is very one-note in its material and presentation, and it is only its good fortune to have some very good lead performances in there that rise it above the level it would otherwise have been at.
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