As soon as the name Jimmy McGovern (Accused) is attached to something, you know it's going to be good. And his latest 90-minute BBC drama Common, starring Daniel Mays, Nico Mirallegro, Jodhi May and Michael Gambon, shows that he has no plans to let his good reputation down.
I was lucky enough to head down to the BFI on London's Southbank for a special preview screening back in February. Why it's taken so long to finally air on telly I'll never know, but choosing a Sunday when there's no World Cup action is probably a wise decision. It feels like after a bit of a quiet period, good telly is on it's way back with The Honourable Woman launching this week, Utopia about to come back and now Common, which is a real 90 minute treat for a Sunday night.
Common tells the story of Johnjo O'Shea (Nico Mirallegro) who gives three guys an impromptu lift to grab a pizza, unbeknown to him, the three guys have actually gone in to sort out a guy they thought needed sorting.During the fight between the three guys and the guy they went to sort out, an innocent bystander gets stabbed and is left fighting for his life, and Johnjo finds himself charged with murder.
The drama examines the potential for injustice with the controversial Joint Enterprise Law which means that the police can charge everyone involved in carrying out a crime. In this case, Johnjo wasn't even in the pizza place, he waited outside in the car - but he's treated as if he was there. Guilty by association if you will.
We then see how the incident affected both Johnjo’s family, and the victim’s family - in particular the two mothers, who are played perfectly, and with such emotion, by Susan Lynch and Jodhi May.
As well as having a brilliant script courtesy of Mr McGovern, Common also has a really great cast including Daniel Mays (Mrs Biggs), Jodhi May (Ice Cream Girls), Susan Lynch (Monroe). Michael Gambon (Harry Potter) and together they tell this story perfectly.The most exciting member of the cast, in my opinion, is rising star Nico Mirallegro. Nico has been on my radar for a while now, and I've definitely had him as 'someone to watch', from his days as Newt in Hollyoaks, his portrayal of Joe Middleton in The Village, to his most recent role as Finn Nelson in My Mad Fat Diary.
Common sees him play a slightly darker character to those he's played before - a character who is thrown into a situation he never thought he'd find himself in. And you can't help but feel for Johnjo, even if you do question some of the choices he makes.
I'm really hoping Common will open even more doors for Nico, who earlier this year was nominated for a BAFTA for 'Best Supporting Actor' in The Village, but sadly lost out to the very brilliant David Bradley for Broadchurch.
So if you like your drama strong, powerful, and with meaning, then Common is most definitely for you. As with any drama from Jimmy McGovern, he doesn't just make you sit and watch, he makes you sit, watch and think. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I think it's great that the BBC and McGovern are able to use drama as an art form by which to educate people and show them the effects of the controversial Joint Enterprise Law.Speaking at the BFI back in February, McGovern revealed how Common began with a letter he received from a mother whose son was behind bars thanks to the Joint Enterprise Law and he knew straight away that he had to make a series about it. McGovern said how he believes the law is leading to too many miscarriages of justice.
I personally knew nothing about that law, and didn't even know existed. Now I do, and I'm constantly asking myself questions about whether it's a good idea, or not. It seems McGovern had a point to make. And he's certainly made it.