Southcliffe is brilliant. It’s compelling and gut-wrenching and the cinematography is astonishing.
It’s also the worst piece of television I have ever watched. Not because of the acting, which is great, or the script, which is sparse but just enough.
It’s the worst because the unrelenting bleakness, the sorrow, dpreviaty, hopelessness of it all seeps into you. Like the mist that coats the scenery of Southcliffe, gunman Stephen’s depression rolls off the screen and insinuates itself into you.
I cannot watch and I cannot not watch. Stephen’s mother’s soiled nightdress, Stephen’s head steaming with urine as two soldiers relieve themselves on him, Stephen carving numbers into his hand. The images stay with me.
Southcliffe has made me feel empty. Desolate. I don’t like any of the characters. By the end I almost think they deserve the brutal slaying that awaits them.
It makes it no better that this could happen, has happened in real life. Critics have queried whether this drama should have been made, given the numerous gun massacres in the UK and the US. But it is fair to say that this drama doesn’t feel exploitative. Not of the victims anyway. But I feel exploited, used. I knew I wasn’t sitting down to watch a cosy Sunday night drama but even with all the warnings I was unprepared.
Channel 4 broadcasts a website address at the end. You can go there if any of the issues in the programme have affected you and you need support. It feels like shutting the door after the horse has bolted.
I won’t take a gun and shoot my neighbours after watching Southcliffe. I certainly won’t join the army. It’s fair to say this isn’t a recruitment video. I will watch the next episode. I will finish the series and get the sort of peace real life victims of this crime cannot have.
But I won’t forget what Southcliffe has done to me. To be moved this much by a programme shows its power. I cannot tell you not to watch Southcliffe. But I can warn you of the effect it will have.
Contributed by Victoria Prior