Catch up TV reviews: War Child, Mystery of the Man on the Moor, Broadchurch
Ivan Radford | On 19, Mar 2017
War Child (All 4)
“I left Syria because I was scared of the war.” That’s 12-year-old Rawan from Aleppo in Channel 4’s War Child, and that simple distillation of the refugee crisis is a powerful and irrefutable answer to the negative headlines we see in the right-wing press every day. Following in similar footsteps to BBC Three’s The Refugee Diaries, this documentary is a powerful, moving watch, as we see three kids make their way from Afghanistan and Syria to anywhere that’s safe. Their journey is fraught with fresh dangers, including, most shocking of all, smugglers and kidnappers, but the young people take it in their remarkable stride, something that’s all the more affecting due to director Jamie Roberts’ decision to let them tell their own stories with minimal interference or interruption.
By the end of their tales, they have all become adults far too prematurely – and that forced maturation is impossible to understand and heartbreaking to witness. “The road to here made me grow older,” says Rawan. Then she laughs and puts on a hijab voluntarily, already taking control of her own life. This is important, essential watching, a reminder of film and TV’s power to generate empathy for the most alien of experiences. Here’s hoping more of that empathy is generated in the coming months.
Mystery of the Man on the Moor (All 4)
“People think CCTV is like The Bourne Identity, but it’s not,” a police officer tells us in The Mystery of the Man on the Moor – and that’s certainly true in this case, as we see Oldham CID try to track a man’s whereabouts in Manchester train station. Why? Because on 11th December 2015, he was discovered on Saddleworth Moor, dead, with no wallet and no phone. Dubbed “Neil”, it took officers months to identity him, a painstaking operation that unfolds in slow, patient detail.
What happened to him? How did he show up there? This documentary drip-feeds the information at a suitably gradual pace, as we find out he had poison in his system – something that prompts comparison to Agatha Christie. But this is no fiction, a fact that makes this entirely compelling and slightly disappointing when the trail seems to stop cold upon the discovery of a wider, international scope to the story. That, you suspect, only makes this a more accurate depiction of the police detecting process.
Broadchurch: Season 3, Episode 3 (ITV Hub)
If anyone thought the strong start was a fluke, rest assured: Broadchurch’s third season just keeps on getting better and better, as Hardy (David Tennant) and Miller (Olivia Colman_ investigate the rape of Trish (Julie Hesmondhalgh). Much has been written about creator Chris Chibnall’s ability to capture the melancholy of a town traumatised by the death of a child, a crime that left fractures running through the picturesque Dorset coastal community. But he’s just as adept at channeling the distrust that lies underneath the town’s surface: we also feel that creeping uncertainty of who might be responsible, and of whether they might still be at large. And that uncertainty gets worse every time we meet someone new, as Chibnall subtly shifts suspicion from one face to the next.
It’s testament to just how unnerving Broadchurch is that whether people have too neat an excuse (hello to the caterer) or whether they have no excuse at all (hello to Charlie Higson’s Ian Winterman), they still wind up suspicious. All the while, the tensions and uncertainties can be seen grating away at Miller, Miller’s son, Tom (punished by Arthur Darvill’s priest for watching porn on his phone – that’s how bad things have got in this Dorset town), and, of course, the ever-abrupt Hardy. Hell, at one point this episode, he even reheats a cup of tea in the microwave. Where will the tragedy end?