DEBORAH ROSS: Noble Keeley cannot save this stilted saga

DEBORAH ROSS: Noble Keeley cannot save this stilted saga

Summer of the rockets

Wednesday, BBC2


The virtues

Wednesday, channel 4


Stephen Poliakoff's latest drama, Summer of the rocketsis his worst enemy. Especially when you feel seduced and immersed, it does something so absurdly stilted and artificial that it brings you directly out of balance. "Stop the car, Dalton!" Mrs. Shaw called once last week and once this week, and Mr. Shaw is now there. "Stop the car, Dalton," he also called this week. Poor Dalton, your driver, probably doesn't know if he's coming or going. And there is no real reason to ever stop the car. It is a purely literary means of underlining what Mr. Shaw or Ms. Shaw have to say. And there are other moments that pull you up. These five MI5 guys who'd been chasing Mr. Petrukhin. Five boys? To tell him to attend a meeting at 10 a.m.? Behave.

Keeley Hawes and Toby Stephens in the summer of missiles. Stephen Poliakoff's latest drama is his worst enemy

Keeley Hawes and Toby Stephens in the summer of missiles. Stephen Poliakoff's latest drama is his worst enemy

Still, Summer Of Rockets Poliakoff's latest offering, Close To The Enemy, is infinitely superior to the memory of all jazz hands and creeping nightclub singers, possibly because it's semi-autobiographical. It certainly feels more true. The main character from 1957 is Petrukhin (Toby Stephens), who, like Poliakoff's father, is a Russian Jew and manufacturer of hearing aids and inventor of the "personnel organizer" who later became a pager.

Petrukhin imagines that he has the perfect British accent (even if he sometimes sounds bizarre South African) and is still an outsider. ("Here comes the Darkie and the Jew," notes one MP when Petrukhin arrives with his black right-hand man.) Petrukhin desperately wants to be accepted and sends his little son Sasha (Toby Woolf) for this purpose. to a horrible English boarding school and insists that his daughter Hannah (Lily Sacofsky) be presented to Buckingham Palace as "Deb", although she would prefer to spend her time worrying about the nuclear war. He also befriends Kathleen Shaw (Keeley Hawes, as great as ever) and her MP husband (Linus Roache), who are old-fashioned.

It sounds terrible on paper, Mr. Petrukhin, but the fact is that I love him. He is just so wonderfully lovable and kind of touching. It is beautifully written and beautifully performed by Stephens, who, as you may recall, made the best Mr. Rochester ever. (In this adaptation of Jane Eyre with Ruth Wilson – "Jane, Jane, where are yoooouuuuuu?")

It looks like Petrukhin was asked in two episodes (if you watch week in week out) to spy on the Shaws in return for a large government decree of "personnel organizers" that would keep his company from going there the wall while we were learned more about the Shaws. Mrs. Shaw stopped the car, Dalton, to tell Hannah about her own missing son, while Mr. Shaw stopped the car, Dalton, to tell Mrs. Shaw that he felt her pain. Visually everything is sublimely chic, but sometimes the pace is off. When Hannah failed to meet the queen in time, didn't this scene go on forever? Have we not seen that the "personnel organizer" now almost does not work twice in scenes that also seemed to last forever? And those stilted moments that keep you from showing no sign of subsiding when Hannah had this nightmare when she smashed and woke up Buckingham Palace, sat up straight, and said aloud to herself, “Thank God, it never happened . "Who would ever do that? Tell yourself aloud after a bad dream? Who, who, who? I'm not saying that characters in a drama have to behave as people in real life could, but if you find that this isn't the case, it bothers. One last point: why is Hannah so often shown in bed in this skimpy orange negligee? How does that serve the drama? Or is it just a bit perverted?

Perhaps all dramas are currently suffering from the comparison with The virtuesIt is so naturalistic and authentic and impressive that nothing else has a great chance. It's five stars, although half the time I can't hear what someone is saying and have to rewind over and over again. I would normally care a lot, but it's so convincing that I don't even care.

Written by Shane Meadows, this plays the absolute powerhouse, Stephen Graham as Joe, who has returned to Ireland where he was abused as a child. We still don't know exactly how or by whom. Our only clue was these blurry flashbacks. But this week he visited the (now dilapidated) children's home, where it obviously took place, which sent him to another bend, and it was phenomenally painful. You ask yourself: Why do I watch when it hurts so much? I suppose it's because you feel so strong for him that if you look away and don't testify to his whole story, it would be a betrayal. The scenes with his sister (spectacularly played by Helen Behan) are just great too, even if you have to rewind countless times. This never hits a wrong note. Dalton, stop the car? None of this nonsense here.


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