Broken is a new Jimmy McGovern six-part drama and one that’s difficult to assess from just a single episode.
Sean Bean is Catholic priest Father Michael Kerrigan, a man with a large parrish who look up to him with great respect. He’s always there for his congregation and no-one has a bad word to say about him.
Anna Friel takes the other lead as one of his flock, Christina Fitzsimmons, a single mother with three children who’s going through extreme money worries. Things go from bad to worse when she loses her job at the betting shop for not only being late after attending church, but also ‘borrowing’ money out of the till, but then she trumps that by getting into a scrap with her manageress. As such, that’ll do nothing for her chances of claiming benefits, since while resigning from a job is one thing, punching your boss is something else entirely.
Meanwhile, He’s constantly haunted by his past, something we only get in snatches in this first episode, such as when his mother is seen telling him as a young boy, “You dirty, filthy beast! Have you got no bloody shame!”
There’s also elements of self-depreciating humour, such as when Christina tells Michael, referring to his church services, “People go to mass to get something out of it, don’t they? Well, today, I got this (her injuries from the fight). What will I get next time – cystitis(!)”
If I was to ask a flippant question, why does his bedroom have a fluroscent light above his bed? Who on earth has ever had anything like that? Was it previously where the bathroom sink used to be??
While Michael wants to get to have a chat with Christina because he thinks she’s in pain… “real pain”, i.e. emotional, they find their lives are twinned in that while her mother dies suddenly, he also has his own challenges with his frail mother living 60 miles away, and having to share caring duties with his family.
Broken has two first-class performances from two first-class actors. It’s just a shame that as soon as it had got going, it was over. It felt like it barely scratched the surface of what it has to offer, and that’s the problem with trying to review just the first episode – it’s like trying to review the first 20 minutes of the average movie (or in Tarantino’s case, the first 40 minutes, since they go on so damn long these days).
I would also add that at one point I thought it was going to go a bit ‘Ken Loach’ following the Jobcentre scene. In addition, when Sean Bean began a sermon with the words, “Brothers and sisters”, I couldn’t help but fill in the next bit with M/A/R/R/S’ Pump Up The Volume .
It’d be much better if the drama at least began with a two-parter in one go, but that’ll never happen on a weeknight on BBC1 or ITV since they just *have* to cram the news in at 10pm (despite the former having a dedicated news channel!), and you’d rarely find 9pm dramas running for any longer than an hour at a time anyway.
For those expecting to see this last Tuesday, the series was due to start back then, but it was postponed following the Manchester bombing. There’s no direct connection between the two, but following one of the biggest terrorist atoricites in the UK in modern times, no-one would’ve been in the right frame of mind to watch a strong and dark drama within 24 hours of that happening. I know I wasn’t.
Additional: Since watching episodes 2 and 3, it’s interesting how the series has gone beyond its initial Michael/Christina storyline, leaving that behind and moving on to Michael’s other parishoners. Once ‘getting’ the drama’s structure, it goes from strength to strength.
Episode 1 was an 8/10, and in updating this review to the end of the series, I found subsequent episodes were a solid 10/10 and I do hope Sean Bean gets a BAFTA out of this because he’s bloody well earned it! The scene in episode 3 between him and the awesome Robert Gillespie from ’80s comedy Keep It In The Family as a very bad man was intense beyond belief! And that’s before we even get to episode 4’s finale with the conclusion of Roz Demichelis’ story – easily the best episode there will be of any drama this year.
Amen, you wonderful drama. Roll on Series 2!
Broken is available to pre-order on DVD, ahead of its release on July 10th. If you missed it, you can watch the entire series on BBC iPlayer until August 3rd, and click on the DVD packshot for the full-size version.
Episode 1 Score: 8/10
Episodes 2-6 Score: 10/10
Director: Ashley Pearce
Producers: Colin McKeown and Donna Molloy
Writer: Jimmy McGovern
Music: Matthew Hall and Stephen Vedmore
Father Michael Kerrigan: Sean Bean
Christina Fitzsimmons: Anna Friel
Mariella: Clare Calbraith
Lisa Fitzsimmons: Macy Shackleton
Pauline Pickering: Naomi Radcliffe
Young Michael’s Mother: Aoife McMahon
Father Michael Age 10: Fin Campbell
Jean Reid: Rochenda Sandall
Rosie Lunt (Nan): Eileen Nicholas
Jimmy Fitzsimmons: Dylan Naden
Tommy Fitzsimmons: Gabriel Downes
Father Patrick: Tony Guilfoyle
Father Michael Age 18: Sam Rintoul
Christopher Kerrigan: Rowe David McClelland
Joe Kerrigan: Paul Copley
Eddie Kerrigan: Steve Garti
Beth Kerrigan: Vanessa Earl
Father Michael’s Mother Present Day: Aine Ni Mhuiri
Jobcentre Woman: Gail Kemp
Headmistress: Debra Michaels
Compere: Peter Piper
Football Manager: Steve Evets
Cash Switchers Man: Neil Bell
Referee: Dave Hart
Father Peter Flaherty: Adrian Dunbar
Post Office Clerk: Sarah Higgins
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.