Review: Fiona’s Story- A delicate handling of a precarious subject
Fiona’s Story: BBC1, Sunday 31st August, 9pm
This Sunday sees the airing of Fiona’s Story, a compelling one-off drama for BBC1 neatly proving that writing about precarious subjects such as paedophilia need not contain nauseatingly over earnest discourse about principles and a plot with an annoyingly obvious agenda. Here, the handling is delicate, resulting in an unpretentious approach that lets the situation speak for itself.
Bafta-nominee, Gina McKee stars as Fiona Mortimer, a woman who struggles to keep her family together after her husband Simon, played by Jeremy Northam, is charged with downloading paedophilic images. He is released on bail but returns to face a year in which Fiona’s trust in him is challenged to the limit. As events unfold and Simon’s denial about his actions persists, Fiona is forced to face the horrifying possibility that her three young girls may not be safe with their own father.
A beautifully crafted script, written by new-comer Kate Gabriel and subtly directed by Adrian Shergold (He Kills Coppers, Low Winter Sun), the thing that really strikes me about this drama is its absolute contentedness to be clumsy with characters’ responses to the distressing subject of child pornography. This is particularly highlighted in the reaction of Simon’ s brother as he describes viewing such images as “easily done”.
Fiona’s Story doesn’t feel the need to abuse its dialogue with sophisticated and wholly unrealistic speeches about the wickedness of paedophilia when it can instead, elegantly portray a family attempting to cope in the only way they know how. Much of the time is taken up with near unbearable silence and awkward postures as husband and wife coexist hesitantly around their three children and the devastating meaning of what Simon has done gradually takes hold.
Fiona’s Story reveals the lonely fragments of uncertainty that remain after the shattering of one’s happy, if delusional, domestic security. Without a doubt, it should most take a prominent place on your TV-watching schedule this weekend.
By Susan Allen