Monday, 1 September 2008

Fiona's Story

In a move to annoy Male Rights Activists everywhere (like they need more excuses) the BBC have made and broadcast a drama programme about the story of a woman (Fiona, obviously) whose husband is discovered to be guilty of accessing child pornography. It's an interesting, if a little overdone, angle - the suffering female one, I mean.

From an actor's point of view (me being a red brick, classically trained actor and all. Heh) the role of Fiona is a doozy. Challenging, deep, limelight. Some people like that sorta thing. The whole idea is that Fiona is the greater, deeper victim and is being punished for essentially being good. Well, that's how I read it, anyways.

Being the protagonist, the story is obviously told from Fiona's point of view and it revels in the upsides and fails to avoid the associated pitfalls. Whereas the actress is more than capable, the directing falls a bit short. There are too many string quartet rising and falling in the quiet bits, were actors just look at each other/out into space and little else.

The story is a hybrid of standard slow-paced Brit thriller and American twist-drama. It's done well, but the process gets a bit old. Let me set the typical scene: Fiona thinks she knows something, and makes this assumption known. Suddenly someone or something comes down from the heavens to affect a big change and she is both shocked and saddened at the new turn of events. These events generally rely on her husband or someone else close to the plot revealing something. The shocks all lead to Fiona feeling more and more isolated. From her friends, children and obviously her husband. The crux of the drama is the family, and therefore Fiona-the-Mother plays a massive role. Again, I can't help but feel this idea, no matter how well performed, has been done. Not to death, perhaps, but done all the same.

But this leaves one big problem for me, personally. In the recent (and most excellent) BBC Drama Criminal Justice the protagonist was essentially painted as an innocent victim - like Fiona, in this case. But he was still a bit of a cunt. And you felt that. All the characters - none of them were particularly nice. And yet in Fiona's Story, she is righteous and everyone else is wrong, basically.

This unfortunately leads to the supporting cast being made up of two-dimensional characters. The actor who plays the husband is superb, but the character is a walking stereotype. Two-faced bastard, charmer one second, monster the next, all in all. And this process goes for the majority of the supporting cast, unfortunately. They trot out the generally heard of opinions of paedophilia, as if almost attempting to convey a balanced view.

The issue of paedophilia is tackled very well, it should be said. It is often the elephant in the living room, literally, being such a taboo subject. The 90 minutes does not draw too much on the controversial background, or too little, in fact.

All in all, for a one-off feature it is quite passable. I compare it to Criminal Justice, which had five episodes to tackle it's plot so this comparison is perhaps unfavourable. Regardless, I can't help but feel some of the ideas and themes have been done before and will be again. The forlorn female lead is by not means original, but Fiona's Story was never advertised as revolutionary.

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