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Tuesday, 21 November 2017

The A Word: Family life split in two.

This week’s episode of opens with a belter of a song (‘She Bangs the Drums’ by the Stone Roses) which segues nicely into Joe’s move to Manchester. Alison and Paul are now taking turns to stay in Manchester to avoid Joe having to travel to his new school. There are lots of changes for Joe to adapt to but he and Alison are taking to the new routine better than Paul who seems disorientated by all of the upheaval.


Paul is now having to deal with Rebecca’s break up, the in-laws and the restaurant on his own. He reluctantly takes Sophie (Lucy Gaskell), her autistic son Mark and his friends to a concert but seeing them enjoying themselves, indistinguishable from any other teenagers, he relaxes and starts to enjoy himself too. He admires Sophie’s attitude as she seems able to allow Mark to experience life rather than trying to always anticipate what could go wrong. On a high from a night off from his own worries, Paul spends a carefree evening after the concert going through Sophie’s record collection.

There is almost a moment between Paul and Sophie which most would have brushed aside and forgotten about. Paul however feels it must mean something about his relationship with Alison, or else is looking for an escape, and wants to talk about it. The family’s focus has been on Joe, perhaps at the expense of everything else, and the cracks are beginning to show.


Meanwhile Maurice (Christopher Eccleston) can’t do right for doing wrong when trying to help Louise. Having nursed his wife, who also had cancer, he is on familiar ground visiting Louise while she undergoes her cancer treatment. He goes into professional carer mode and is able to cope with Louise’s mercurial moods while being comfortable around the hospital and its staff.

Illness affects people in different ways however and Louise is determined to cope with it on her own. Maurice is equally determined to be there for her. My money’s on Maurice winning this one.

The humour in The A Word is what distinguishes it as it makes what can be a difficult subject more accessible and realistic. I also hope we get more of the sarcastic GP in future episodes too as he is hilarious.

This episode covers more of the wider family’s story and, like the family itself, is a bit more fractured as a result. There is not as much of a focus on Joe this time, more on what the effects of responding to Joe’s needs are, the challenges, and sacrifices to be made by everyone, albeit willingly. Whatever your view on the show and its portrayal of autism, it has certainly provided a lot of food for thought and that can only be a good thing.

Contributed by Cecilia

The A Word Continues Tuesday at 9.00pm on BBC One.

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