Dad, BBC1

by | Feb 24, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say of you liked it

A delicate dramatic portrayal of the plight of the elderly as they struggle on in what they often perceive as an uncaring, ungrateful society.

What to say of you didn’t like it

Soulless propaganda that follows the pitiful decay of a once active pensioner that doubles as a senseless shaking fist of rage to all those who prematurely bury old folk in homes.

What was good about it?

• Richard Briers as Larry who, after breaking his ankle, sees the world he has known for decades rapidly disintegrate around him as his Alzheimer’s-ridden wife is put in a home, his best friend dies and his son’s devotion quickly turns to revulsion soon after Larry moves in with him to recuperate.

• The succinct characterisation by Kevin Whately of Oliver who elicits impatience, frustration and violence in a subtle way early on the drama and this slowly builds towards the genuinely shocking moment when he batters Larry with his briefcase. And Oliver’s revulsion at the intimate bodily functions of his parents, such as when he recoils after Larry asks him to examine Jeanie’s bruise and his persistent wincing at hearing Larry vomiting and when his father’s soiled underwear is discovered under the bed.

• The bland horror of Summer House, where Jeanie has been sent after Larry is incapacitated, which appears more like Heaven’s waiting room mutely inhabited by barely conscious old folk, where clothes are washed mechanically in huge anonymous machines and internees’ garments are changed into whatever’s available, which particularly outrages Larry.

• Larry’s meek acceptance of the erosion of his independence as he greets each act of kindness by Oliver and wife Sandy with well-mannered, but insincere, gratefulness and his distress as Jeanie only sporadically recognises him.

• The austere imagery of the lavish food that Larry enjoys at Oliver’s, which is then cut to Summer House where Jeanie is staring dumbly at the sort of meal Jamie Oliver is trying to exorcise from schools. And when Larry affectionately strokes Jeanie’s head only for her to automatically lift up her dead eyes and open her mouth to receive food she anticipates being shovelled into her mouth by the nurses, which is now the only stimulus she recognises.

• The apparent heartlessness of the Summer House nurses who regard the patients as little more than animals such as when Jeanie strays from her room and is led back to her bed like a dog on a leash.

What was bad about it?

• Because Richard Briers delivered such an excellent performance, it meant that Larry was at times an infuriating old coot always complaining neurotically about Jeanie’s treatment in the home as a focus of the frustrations of his own immobility.

• Even Larry and best friend Maurice’s cunning plan to get into Swindon Town home games did little to life the incessant gloom.

• The drama was perhaps overlong with Larry’s fury at Jeanie’s maltreatment in Summer House saturated to the point where you almost sympathised with Oliver’s aggravation over his father. And the visual flashbacks to illustrate Larry’s bewilderment and hurt at the collapse of his and Oliver’s father-son relationship like when Oliver lost his temper in the car or when he struck him with the briefcase were redundant and excessive as Richard Briers conveyed everything with a crumpled, resigned expression.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles

24/02/2005

Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!

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