February 1st, 2010

Mo: Channel 4

Julie Waters is a very distinctive actor with a very distinctive voice. She's not the sort of actor who disappears into a role. And that's why it was all wrong to have her playing Mo Mowlam. I'm sure it was a lovely performance in all sorts of ways, but I couldn't for a moment suspend my disbelief.

Also I'm getting tired-  tired to the point of switching off whenever I encounter it-  of dramas about the recent past that stir real documentary footage into the mix. In this film, for instance, Mowlam, Trimble, McGuinness and Adams were all played by actors but Paisley and Blair got to play themselves.  If the intention is to create the illusion of reality I've got news for the programme makers.  It doesn't work. In fact the reverse is true. it smashes the flimsy illusion of reality you've been trying to create. Either give us documentary or give us cunningly-contrived fiction- but don't bat us about between the two. By showing the real Paisley you're drawing attention to the fact that your make-believe McGuinness is far too tall,  your make-believe Adams too morose and your make-believe Trimble too foxy-  well, you get my drift.

The schedules are choked these days with biopics. I don't like them. They're unsatisfactory as history- because of course they have to invent stuff- and unsatisfactory as drama because they're tied too closely to what really happened.  There's never yet been a biopic that wasn't thoroughly mediocre.