Four Lives is based on a true story, and stars the omnipresent Sheridan Smith as Sarah Sak, mother to Anthony Walgate (Tim Preston), a young fashion designer who, in 2014, tells his best friend, China, he’s going on a Grindr date, first letting her know on the night where he’s going “in case get killed x”.
Sadly, as we know, this did happen, as his body was found right outside the flat occupied by oddball loner Stephen Port (Stephen Merchant, with Merchant looking looks haunting as the killer, albeit still sounding the same, so it’s still difficult for him to escape being Stephen Merchant, and so his performance doesn’t quite stand out as much as I was hoping).
Port’s second victim, of four – but it’s just two who form the part of the first of this three-parter – is young Slovakian Gabriel Kovari (Jakub Svec), initially befriended by John Pape (Rufus Jones), before his path eventually crosses with Port.
In real life, Stephen Port was known as the ‘Grindr Killer’, but here, there’s no mention of Grindr. It’s just a generic escort site that’s being used. As far as I’m aware, Grindr is a hookups site, not one where someone pays for services. As a straight male, however, it’s not a site I’ve used. My love life is a story, for which, I could fill my own three-part drama.
However, couldn’t the BBC get the clearance to use the Grindr name? You’d think it would be essential when trying to accurately recreate a drama.
Also, at one point, the family liaison cop who deals with Sarah, just ends the call rather than deal with the distraught mother. Would he do that, really? Plus, the cop character just kept interrupting her. The best thing would be to let her speak in full, first, and try to answer questions, rather than wading in with his own agenda.
Overall, for this opener (the only episode I’ve seen prior to broadcast), Four Lives is an interesting drama, but just feels very uneven in the telling, and so it’s watchable, but not great. I’ll stick with it to see how it goes, though.
UPDATE Episodes 2 and 3:
Four Lives begins tonight on BBC1 at 9pm, and runs for three consecutive nights at the same time. It’s not yet available to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD.
After episode one has been broadcast, the whole series will be on the BBC iPlayer.
Episode 1: 5/10
Episode 2: 6/10
Episode 3: 7/10
Director: David Blair
Producer: Serena Cullen
Writer: Neil McKay
Music: Adrian Johnston
Sarah Sak: Sheridan Smith
Stephen Port: Stephen Merchant
Anthony Walgate: Tim Preston
Gabriel Kovari: Jakub Svec
John Pape: Rufus Jones
China: Isabella Laughland
Kiera: Alexa Davies
Paul: Shaun Thomas
Karl Turner MP: Ian Puleston-Davies
Sandra: Kate Layden
Kate: Leanne Best
Sami Sak: Memet Ali Alabora
Tom: Kris Hitchen
DC Paul Slaymaker: Michael Jibson
DS Martin O’Donnell: Ben Cartwright
Ryan Edwards: Samuel Barnett
Barbara Denham: Giselle Cullinane
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.