Sean Bean & Stephen Graham give powerful performances in a prison drama where there are no winners.
There are really no winners in Time, the new UK prison drama by acclaimed writer Jimmy McGovern (Cracker, The Street, Redfern Now).
Prisoners, wardens, victims and families all seem to suffer as a consequence of an under-resourced and crowded system.
Sean Bean (Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings) stars as Mark Cobden, a British school teacher who winds up in prison after the death of a man when he was driving dangerously. Wracked with guilt, he sees the term as penance. But entering the slammer for the first time sees him woefully out of his depth.
“What are you doing?” is a matter of fact question which confronts him a lot -shorthand for how many years, and what were you convicted of?
Craigmore prison is old, cold and, as he quickly discovers, brutal at every turn. His younger cellmate has his own confronting issues and the inmate hierarchy will quickly test him.
Stephen Graham (The Virtues, Line of Duty, This is England) plays prison officer Eric McNally who, by and large, operates by the book. But information is a powerful currency behind bars and he will also face critical decisions.
Threats, fights, drugs are all second nature in this environment -as if the system is working against those within it. Siobhan Finneran (Downton Abbey) is one of the few characters bringing some hope, in the form of a local nun, Marie-Louise.
Mark, underplayed with great presence by Bean, is clinging to family and the hope of absolution from his victim’s family.
“You’re in here as punishment, son. Not for it,” his mother reminds him.
But right now it’s a fight for survival.
Jimmy McGovern masterfully brings insight into the British prison system with two powerful leads. There’s no denying it is confronting and bleak, but the upside are in the writing and excellent performances.
One downside is I had some difficulty comprehending some dialogue. Both strong accents and mumblecore combined to nearly render some scenes pointless, which is a shame given everything else is such a drawcard.
This is just 3 episodes and highly recommended if you can stomach it.
Time premieres 8:30pm Sunday July 11 on BBC First.