A racist killing and an agonising glimpse of what might have been: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV
The Confessions Of Thomas Quick
The most beautiful paintings ever created, by the Italian Renaissance artists, feature the faces of real children.
They are the cherubim and seraphim, winged toddlers with plump arms and poignant smiles.
In many cases, these junior angels were based on drawings of babies who didn’t survive infancy.
Child mortality was shockingly high in an age without vaccines or antibiotics, in wealthy families as well as the poor. For grieving parents, it was a comfort to see their lost children depicted as forever perfect, part of heaven’s nursery.
The bittersweet drama Anthony (BBC1) sprang from the same need. By imagining the future life of a much-loved lad from Liverpool, Anthony Walker, who was murdered in a racist assault aged 18, it gave expression to the appalling grief suffered by his mother, Gee
The bittersweet drama Anthony (BBC1) sprang from the same need. By imagining the future life of a much-loved lad from Liverpool, Anthony Walker, who was murdered in a racist assault aged 18, it gave expression to the appalling grief suffered by his mother, Gee.
Jimmy McGovern’s script began with Anthony as he might have been at 25, had he lived — a successful lawyer and campaigner for human rights, using his charisma and persuasive personality to help people less fortunate.
For the next hour, the story worked backwards, showing how he coached a team of troubled local youngsters at basketball, and helped an old school friend who was living rough. We were with Anthony, aged 21, as he met the young teacher who would become his wife, and at 19 as he landed his first job.
And then the wistful dream intersected with reality, as McGovern showed us what actually happened: a confrontation with drunken thugs at a bus stop, a chase, a blade buried in the boy’s skull. We were spared nothing — the devastation of Gee and her family at the hospital bedside was awful to see.
Gee (played with a touch of grandeur by Rakie Ayola) is a devout Christian. Many of the images had emphatic religious overtones, such as the light around Anthony’s bed as he died and the way his mother knelt and clutched his bare feet. An aura of saintliness was deliberately projected onto the young man’s memory.
Toheeb Jimoh, as Anthony, delivered a convincing portrayal of decency and principle without tipping into cloying righteousness. Julia Brown was his adoring wife, who went into labour in a Sprinter railway carriage and gave birth while the train raced on for hours, never stopping — a surreal moment in a fantasy that tried otherwise to remain realistic.
The life stolen from Anthony Walker can never be restored. But what this drama did at least do was to give Gee a lasting glimpse of the joy she deserved, whether that was her son’s thanks to her at his wedding or the moment she learned she had become a grandmother. Bittersweet indeed.
No compensation was offered for the stolen lives of murder victims in Sweden across 30 years, in The Confessions Of Thomas Quick (C4). All the focus was on the violent, attention-seeking drug addict Sture Bergwall, alias Quick, a patient in a mental institution who claimed to be a serial killer.
None of the detectives and psychiatrists fooled by Bergwall’s lies appeared in the documentary. But the fantasist himself was more than happy to play to the camera, talking eagerly about the crimes he invented.
This film, made five years ago but showing on British television for the first time, fell into the same trap that fooled the doctors and the Swedish courts. It gave Bergwall a platform to act out his perverted imaginings.
No thought was given to the real murderers of the 39 dead or missing people whose cases stretch back to the Sixties. Bergwall’s grandstanding helped those criminals to avoid detection. This film aided and abetted him.
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