Review: Making the Most of A Number

September 10, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

A Number

 A Number, BBC , Wednesday 10th Sept, 9pm Alert Me

Despite its many flaws, one of the reasons I love the BBC is that it means occasionally we get gems like this. It shouldn’t have been made- a one off drama on a challenging topic, based on a stage play and featuring only two actors.

It opens with a father, Salter, (played by Tom Wilkinson) and son  Bernard(Rhys Ifans) as they reel from the discovery that the son is one of a number of clones. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that the father has harboured dark secrets, ones that have will have a terrible impact for both of them.
Despite its sci fi premise this is a film that examines some very essential questions about humanity. As the son struggles to comprehend himself as one of ‘A number’, he must confront a challenge to the most basic building blocks of identity- or as his father says ‘They’ve damaged your uniqueness’.
Given that it is the son who has been cloned, it is actually the father who cannot accept the many copies of his child. They are distant ‘things’, no matter that they are all in some ways his sons. It is this that the father must come to terms with, as we glimpse insight into a few of the many identities of his sons.

The story gives rise to questions about identity and of nature vs nurture. The unravelling of these questions is slow but always keeps a tension, dancing ahead of what you expect, all the while allowing us the pure humanity of the characters to speak.

This is a powerful adaptation that certainly has not lost anything in translation from stage to film. A beautiful look at the fractal possiblities of personality, while remaining at its core a deeply satisfying, well told story. Don’t miss out on this really wonderful one off piece.