Every now and then, the BBC produce a drama so breath-haltingly wonderful, it makes you want to trot off to Television Centre and press every single exorbitant pound of license fee money straight into the hands of the TV execs who gave it the go ahead.
The man at the centre of this drama, Stuart Clive Shorter, was it seems, a 'convict curry' of contradictions; By turns, gentle yet violent, intelligent yet credulous, polite yet terrifying, innocent yet street savvy - riding the tidal wave of his personality with a strange kind of grace and sharp humour.
Shunted around like a hockey puck from institution to institution and beset by abuse, disability and addiction from childhood, our introduction to the 33 year old Stuart begins when he parks himself in a Cambridge drop in centre and wins over writer Alexander Masters with his perculiarly acute worldview.
Stuart and Alexander become unlikely allies in campaigning against the unjust imprisonment of two out-reach workers, jailed when a homeless centre they ran was raided by Police.
Long hours and long journeys lead to long conversations, as Alexander decides to 'staple Stuart to the page' - writing, at Stuart's invitation, a 'murder mystery'. Starting - Columbo style - with the victim, and guiding the viewer slowly through the horrific crimes which led to the maiming of the man, and the killing of the boy.
Director David Attwood has previously taken viewers on a visceral voyage through Edwardian seas in 'To The Ends of The Earth', and again, does not flinch from the difficult subject matter contained in Stuart's story.
Attwood's use of black and white cartoon sequences to illustrate the darker aspects of Stuart's life is an ingenious device, giving light relief while still underlining the theme of childhood lost. Stuart's endearing attempts to cook the most unpalatable food ever eaten rival even Baldrick's finest culinary efforts, and add a splash of welcome gallows humour.
Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch, (as Stuart and Alexander respectively), pull of a masterclass in understated brilliance. Through their performances, this technicolour story is allowed to breathe freely, and like Stuart, it sneaks up slowly and grabs you by the heart.
'Stuart- A Life Backwards' remains a fittingly mad, sad, joyous and chaotic tribute to a man who, like a sort of skewed David Copperfield, was the hero of his own life. It's a one-off - Much like the man himself.