A Song for Jenny is a new drama adapted by Julie Nicholson’s book, a vicar who lost her daughter when four bombs were detonated on July 7th 2005 in London. The bombnigs killed 52 civilians and injured over 700 more, making this the UK’s worst terrorist attack since the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, and was also the UK’s first ever suicide attack.
However, be sure of one fact – when the terrorists claim to do attacks like this in the name of Islam, or any other faith, they are not. These terrorists are not “extremists” in any shape or form. They are, simply, “murdering bastards”. Most people watching events like this on the news are sensible, but unfortunately there are also people who breathe the same oxygen and support bone-headed organisations like The English Defence League or Britain First and think the cause is down to
Muslamic ray guns .
I appreciate that a situation like this will be immensely harrowing for those involved, and there may be a better scope for it to work in book form so that Mrs Nicholson can describe her feelings in full detail, but as a television drama it really didn’t work. After the bombings were announced on the news, with the drama at least sensibly avoiding the sensationalist route of recreating them, we were shown everything you expected – the Nicholson family going through the interminable frustration of not knowing what’s happening, going to the local hospital to check if Jenny’s been taken in, then being given tea and sympathy by police liaison officers and we were also shown occasional flashback scenes in case we were in any doubt that a mother loved her daughter.
Of course, we knew what the outcome will be, since if it wasn’t going to be the worst possible outcome imaginable, then we wouldn’t have been had the book and it would not have been turned into a TV movie of the week.
Emily Watson leads the cast as Julie, a dependable actress who always turns in a great performance, but while she’s crying her eyes out and reacting exactly as you’d expect a mother to do when it sinks in that her daughter won’t be coming home, the rest of the cast stand about like tertiary characters in a Grand Theft Auto game, waiting for you to move from your current spot so that they can follow.
Some parts of the script really hammer home the message of “There are still some good people left in the world”, such as the taxi drriver who takes Julie home from London to Reading, when he drops he off at home and predictably refuses the fare, stating “You probably think the world is a pretty bleak place right now. I wanted to do this to show you there are still some good people left in the world.”
Yes, with this level of scriptwriting akin to a bad soap opera, I was amazed the cabbie didn’t then hold up a piece of card to the camera saying: “AUDIENCE: CRY NOW!”
So while my heart goes out to everyone who lost someone in the tragedy, or was injured in what took place, it may sound a well-worn argument that while there may be a drama to make about this situation, this was not it.
In addition, there’s definitely a strange process this drama has been shot in. Filmed in 16:9, occasionally some scenes have clearly been filmed at around 15:9 and ‘stretched’ to 16:9. It’s not the first time I’ve seen this happen and I can’t think what the point of it is. One such scene comes around 30 minutes in when Julie gets a visit from the family liaison officers.
And on another technical note, as someone who hates babbling continuity announcers crashing the end credits of dramas with great insensitivity, as they did with the recent The C Word, starring Sheridan Smith, at least they kept schtum this time round. If only they did that every time…
And just one other technical point, as you’ll see below – whoever put the end credits together obviously thought Craig Stein did a great job as ‘Tube Passenger’…
A Song for Jenny is released on Monday July 13th on DVD, and click on the packshot for the full-size image.
Director: Brian Percival
Producer: Liz Trubridge
Screenplay: Frank McGuinness
Julie Nicholson: Emily Watson
Greg Nicholson: Steven Mackintosh
Jenny: Nicola Wren
Lizzie: Martha Mackintosh
Thomas: Laurence Belcher
Uncle Jimmie: Alan Rothwell
James: Gwilym Lee
Mother: Anne Stallybrass
Auntie Karina: June Watson
Father: John Woodvine
Sharon: Sophie Dix
Martyn: Nicholas Asbury
Cleric: Edmund Digby-Jones
Drunk Beggar: Paul Ryan Carberry
Joanne: Megan Salter
William: Noah Jupe
Vanda: Poppy Miller
Stefan: Darren Strange
Ellie: Mimi Lowe
Colin: Stuart Martin
Pauline: Maxine Evans
Taxi Driver: Bruce Byron
Tube Passenger: Craig Stein
Station Manager Mr McDonald: Trevor Michael Georges
Detective Chief Inspector: Andrew Whipp
Priest: Richard Syms
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.