Three Families comes from the same team as 2017’s Three Girls, and centres around the sensitive topic of abortion, the Abortion Act 1967 subsequently permitting this within the UK… except for Northern Ireland.
In my view, as a man who can’t get pregnant, it is a woman’s right to choose. If you’re a man and don’t think it is, then if you get reincarnated as a woman next time, get pregnant and let me know if you change your mind.
Based on true stories, so not naming those involved, this two-part drama begins in June 2015, in Belfast, where Theresa Ryan (Sinead Keenan) is up before the beak because of the crime of abortion. Then it goes back 2 years to when her daughter, Orla (Lola Petticrew), had final exam at the age of 15, and… confided in her mum that she’s pregnant.
Given the legal situation, anyone in such a position would have to go abroad if they were that determined to take this action, and it’ll cost a fortune. It’s also illegal because she’s underage and, meanwhile, her boyfriend is threatening her to “get rid of it” and making a number of nasty threats.
Beyond that, Hannah Kennedy (Amy James-Kelly) is hoping to become pregnant soon with husband Jonathan (Merlin’s Colin Morgan), but when an unforeseen situation arises, will they qualify for a termination if they so choose?
The second episode, on tomorrow, also brings in a third family, Rosie Fortress (Genevieve O’Reilly) and husband David (Prasanna Puwanarajah), a couple whose expectant baby is diagnosed with Full Edwards’ syndrome, which sadly leads to most babies passing away before they are born. How will they deal with the options available to them?
So, we have three separate stories mixed in to one drama.
As for the downsides? Well, while Three Families gets into the meat of the story quite quickly, it is quite leaden in the way it tells its story. Also, when someone can’t have a termination/abortion for whatever their reason, any government employee tasked with confirming the sad news is just portrayed as an unfeeling and uncaring bastard as if they’re Nurse Ratched refusing to turn the TV on. So, it does rather feel like writer Gwyneth Hughes has an agenda.
Still, I’m glad it’s just two episodes, unlike, say, ITV’s Viewpoint, which was one episode’s worth of content stretched out over five. I know ITV pulled the finale, citing the allegations regarding Noel Clarke, but it could also have been because they didn’t want the entire country to fall into a coma, brought on by extreme ennui.
Like a number of dramas, I do have to question why Three Families was shot in a cinemascope-style 2.35:1 widescreen aspect ratio. This is a TV drama, not the cinema. You have a 16:9 screen, please use it. However, the director also compounds this by often using an anamorphic lens, and does what I’ve seen on many dramas where there’s a two-hander scene with each person filmed separately, and with one person on the far right of the screen and with their head turned mostly to the right. Then the other person is on the left, with their head turned mostly to the left. It’s arty when it doesn’t need to be.
That said, there are some good performances in there, particularly from all the female leads, so it’s worth a watch for those.
Three Families begins tonight at 9pm on BBC1 and is shown over two consecutive nights. It’s not available yet to pre-order on Blu-ray or DVD, but after broadcast, each episode will be on the BBC iPlayer.
Director: Alex Kalymnios
Producer: Chris Martin
Writer: Gwyneth Hughes
Music: Andrew Simon McCallister
Theresa Ryan: Sinead Keenan
Orla Healy: Lola Petticrew
Hannah Kennedy: Amy James-Kelly
Jonathan Kennedy: Colin Morgan
Rosie Fortress: Genevieve O’Reilly
David Fortress: Prasanna Puwanarajah
Mark Ryan: Owen McDonnell
Louise Byrne: Kerri Quinn
Kathleen Nolan: Ger Ryan
DC Fallon: Claire Rafferty
Dr Adam Pauling: Jonny Everett
Rachel Dunleavy: Vanessa Emme
Jenny Anderson: Grainne Keenan
Prosecuting Solicitor: Paul Mallon
Magistrate: Colin Murphy
Michael Keane: Richard Clements
TV reporter: Aoibheann McCann
Sheena Cullen: Kathy McGarry
Dr Corin Brewster: Dan Gordan
Geraldine Coleman: Emer Casey
Marta Miller: Rebecca Johnson
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.