UK TV review: Anne (2021)
James R | On 09, Jan 2022
“I lost my boy, Kevin. I’m his mum, Anne.” Those are the words of Anne William (Maxine Peake) as she speaks at a Hillsborough Family Support Group meeting. It’s a moment of heart-wrenching strength, as the Liverpool mum steps up to face her grief, give voice to it, and refuse to be silent until justice has been found for his death.
The 15-year-old Kevin was one of 97 football fans killed in the tragic disaster at the FA Cup semi-final on 15 April 1989. Initially ruled as an accidental death, the drama does an excellent job of capturing the way that the tragedy was made even worse by a series of cover-ups and lies by the police and authorities. Kevin Sampson, who was at the game, pens the drama with insight and understanding, as he captures the shock and the heartbreak of the loved ones of those died that day – and their anger at the way that the facts were distorted afterwards. One particularly gut-wrenching scene sees Anne being told that witness reports of Kevin being alive and saying a last word couldn’t possibly be correct, as he was likely braindead at the point. Neither option offers any kind of comfort, and we see that unthinking horror play across her face with gut-churning clarity.
The individual police officers we meet are portrayed with a surprising amount of humanity, as Sampson conveys the struggle they had in telling people that their relatives had died. But this is Anne’s story, and Maxine Peake is astonishingly powerful as the mother who cannot stop reliving those final minutes of her son’s life. Her drive for justice becomes all-consuming, but there’s also more to her than that – we first meet her and husband Steve (Stephen Walters) as Kevin (Campbell Wallace) persuades them to let him go to the match, and their family life is immediately believable and understated.
That underplayed approach continues throughout the four episodes, with director Bruce Goodison steering away from cliché to focus on the raw, immediate human cost at every turn. An early scene sees Anne and Steve asked to identify Kevin from a string of photos pinned on a wall. As they go into the room, we see another family leaving, wracked with tears. Even then, we can tell that Anne’s not yet ready to face the truth. If the four hours that follow can sometimes feel like a long ordeal, that’s only fitting for a woman whose life was devoted to doing right by her boy. You can sense the collective loss felt by families across Liverpool, distilled into one mother’s story. This is unbearable and harrowing TV, performed with heartfelt sensitivity and soul.
Anne is available on ITV Hub.