Coming Soon: Anthony

The latest true-life drama from award-winning writer Jimmy McGovern will have its NZ premiere on the Acorn TV service.

Anthony is a 90-minute BBC dramatisation of how 18-year-old devout Christian Anthony Walker was murdered in a racist attack 15 years ago.

McGovern (The Street, Hillsborough) was asked by Walker’s mother, Gee, to write Anthony; they had been friends for years and he would seek her advice on how to depict grieving characters in his earlier dramas.

McGovern’s unique approach takes the viewer through what could have been, beginning with a 25-year-old Anthony and working back to the night his life was tragically cut short.

Said The Guardian of Anthony’s unconventional narrative:

Maybe in hands other than McGovern’s – probably our finest TV writer since Alan Bleasdale, whose commitment to dramatising and humanising systemic social injustice he shares – it would have felt tricksy. Maybe without Gee’s input, or their friendship, it would have been a coldly clinical narrative exercise. But it worked to beautiful, shattering effect, aided beyond measure by a brilliant cast and two pitch-perfect performances in particular from Toheeb Jimoh as Anthony and Rakie Ayola as Gee.

“The project was planned long before the current Black Lives Matter protests, but it is a potent contribution to that debate,” The Telegraph observed. “A black boy murdered by strangers, simply for being black.”

It hailed the drama as “a moving tribute to a man who deserves to be remembered” but cautioned:

In truth, this imagined life of Anthony did not play to McGovern’s strengths as a writer. The first two-thirds of the film were pure wish fulfilment, which made for touching scenes but little scope for McGovern (who won a Bafta for his 1996 Hillsborough film) to show his skills.

Said The Times: “This was essentially a film about grief and the gaping holes that bereavement leaves. Or, as Gee put it, the ‘girls he would have loved . . . the woman he would have married . . . the songs he would have sung’. And in that sense Anthony was Everyman. It was powerful stuff and unlike anything I’ve seen before.”

Anthony will stream on Acorn TV from October 26.

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