Happy New Year!
A few weeks back, I left my shortlist of the year’s best needing just one addition to bring it up to the magic number 10. I noted that Landscapers (Sky Atlantic) had “started promisingly” and that I had a couple of things I wanted to see over Christmas. As it happened, the thing I was most looking forward to, John Bridcut’s film of Schubert’s Winterreise, was postponed for next year, so I am left with just two candidates to consider, both of them based on notorious court cases, though taking very different approaches.
Landscapers had indeed started well and it just got better. It was a wonderful mixture of fantasy and reality, with the mechanics of film-making used to emphasise the former and archive news coverage of the real events in the end credits for the latter. In the end, the fantasy won out, with cinematic end titles for the final episode and no more news. It was brilliantly conceived and directed by Will Sharpe and contained outstanding central performances from Olivia Colman and David Thewlis – indeed Colman joins the others on my Bafta roster. I don’t buy the criticism that it was too sympathetic towards murderers – it was a speculative psychological study which was also a very unusual love story and the alienation effects served to undercut our identification with the characters anyway. It is another excellent addition to the shortlist.
A Very British Scandal (BBC1) also had two excellent central performances, from Claire Foy and Paul Bettany, but took a more literal approach to its subject – the scandalous 1963 divorce case involving the Duke and Duchess of Argyll. If it didn’t reach the heights of its predecessor, A Very English Scandal (which made my top ten three years ago) it was because it lacked the wicked humour which Russell T Davies brought to that script and it desperately needed it. Well worth watching, but not shortlist-worthy.
So, my shortlist IS my top 10 this year and is:
Can’t Get You Out of My Head (BBC i-Player)
Adam Curtis’ best since Pandora’s box.
Lockdown according to Dennis Kelly and Sharon Horgan
Help (Channel 4)
Jack Thorne and Marc Munden’s shattering story of the victims of covid.
It’s a Sin (Channel 4)
Top of so many end-of-year lists and with justification
Jimmy McGovern’s riveting prison drama
The Underground Railroad (Amazon)
Barry Jenkins’ fantastic journey through the horrors of slavery
Listening Through the Lens (BBC4)
Great documentary about a great documentarist, Christopher Nupen
The Outlaws (BBC1)
The best thing Stephen Merchant has done without his mate Ricky
Curb Your Enthusiasm (Sky Comedy)
In it’s eleventh season, but better and funnier than ever
Landscapers (Sky Atlantic)
See above – and see you next year.