Poor Father Michael is starting to live up to the title of Jimmy McGovern’s passion play of a drama. He’s cracking up under the weight of all we’ve watched him go through – and who can blame him?
There was the police shooting of Vernon; Roz’s suicide and its aftermath; the little local difficulty over Christina (Anna Friel) not reporting her mum’s death so she could claim her pension – which, looking back, now seems a fairly minor blip on his parish radar.
For the final chapter in Fr Michael’s story, McGovern is on top form. Those who have stuck with the series – and it hasn’t been easy – are rewarded with one of our best writers at his angriest and most moving.
As the inquest into Vernon’s death opens, McGovern shines a harsh light into the moral failings of his characters. And whether it’s the owner of a chain of bookies (Phil Davis makes a great cameo) or a venal copper, the script inhabits them and makes them feel awkwardly real. Still, for decent, kind Michael, it’s too much: he sighs, “I’m not a priest, I’m an impostor.”
At one point in this moving bulletin from the NHS frontline, someone refers to “a crisis in mental health in this country”. It’s a phrase you hear a lot in discussions of health policy but if you want to see what it means at the sharp end, watch this.
Three case studies show what can happen when psychiatric patients turn up at A&E in distress. In one, a red-haired woman has assaulted several members of staff and is now in Room Q at St Mary’s, resting. But finding a bed for her at a psychiatric unit (plus secure transport to get her there) proves absurdly difficult for liaison manager Million Moyo – and expensive, too.
A weary A&E staffer sums it up: “There’s been so many cuts in all areas of our social care in this country and it’s so frustrating that anyone in society who doesn’t know where to turn will come to us… It just makes our job very, very frustrating.”
A thousand years in the future, when alien invaders want to know what our society was like in 2017, they’ll go straight to First Dates. All of human life is summed up in this eye-opening series, which all anthropologists should be tuning in to.
This time, Sherry, a 65-year-old dominatrix, is a bit tired of always being in charge so she’s on the lookout for a date she doesn’t need to whip into shape. Meanwhile 42-year-old Christmas-tree farmer Rob – who refers to himself as “the Crocodile Dundee of Swansea” – wants a woman who’ll want to go on nature adventures with him. Hannah, luckily, wants a Bear Grylls type – she might just have found him.
That title might raise a titter but for 18-year-old Hiba Maroof of Bradford, it’s a serious dilemma: family tradition says she should now marry a first cousin, and there are several candidates back in Pakistan. She opens up about whether she should go her own way.
Nora Ephron, the writer of When Harry Met Sally…, came up trumps again as co-writer and director of this gloriously old-fashioned and unashamedly manipulative romantic comedy. Tom Hanks, recently widowed, moves to a new home in Seattle where he just grieves and grieves. His young son (Ross Malinger), concerned over his dad’s state of mind, calls a radio phone-in and when Hanks himself goes on air, he pours his heart out. That’s storyline one. Storyline two features Meg Ryan, a Baltimore journalist who hears the broadcast, recognises a kindred lonely heart and starts tracking Hanks down. Malinger becomes their matchmaker, while the Cary Grant/Deborah Kerr weepie An Affair to Remember is always on TV and serves as a touchstone, providing the inspiration for the movie’s climax at the top of the Empire State Building. For nearly two hours, Ephron keeps her marvellous stars apart, a potentially dangerous tactic that works superbly. In the summer of Jurassic Park, Sleepless in Seattle proved to be a box-office smash; the team subsequently reunited for You’ve Got Mail in 1998.
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