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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Superb Drama, 9 May 2013
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This review is from: The Street: The Complete Series 1-3 [DVD] (DVD)
This masterful series rivals the most intricate novels for deft writing and vivid narrative, using the medium of film in a remarkable way. The BAFTA Award winning collection was created by writer Jimmy McGovern (Cracker and The Lakes). From a seemingly seamy beginning, complex, inter-woven stories build deep explorations of life-issues. Set in Manchester, in northern England, this gritty series may start with a shag and suitcase of sweets, but things quickly progress to serious stuff. The slew of actors involved, from Neil Dudgeon, Jim Broadbent, Lee Ingleby, Jane Horrocks, Gina McKee, Liz White, David Bradley, Ruth McCabe, Christine Bottomely, Joanne Froggatt, Timothy Spall, Mark Benton, David Thewlis, Matt Smith, Grace Cassidy, Dean Andrews, and Marshall Lancaster, etc., are some of the best of the best; the U.K. boasts numerous fine, often underrated, actors. Not only are Garibaldi biscuits in the offing, many of the actors from the superb Manchesterian Life on Mars are featured.

Great stories peer intimately at a life, its particularities and interconnectedness to other lives; each character's uniqueness touches larger, more universal narratives. "The Street" becomes not just a street in Manchester, but a place we all inhabit. There is no escape from decisions, good or bad, consequences return with vengeance and/or redemption; to say this is an engrossing, compelling series is an understatement.

Jim Broadbent, as retiree Stan McDermott, is lost and stuck with a paltry pension. Broadbent swims in his part as only he can. Contemplating suicide with the darkest of humor, he's faced with a priceless, surreal moment with a television that scolds his generation. You can't miss his trip to the looney-bin, where he meets Shaun McGinley as a lunatic Irishman who thinks he's God, and who promises to send Stan a sign. But is he really nuts? Catch the credits for God. Neil Dudgeon as Brian Peterson, a teacher accused of being a flasher, is unforgettable, superb and evocative (episode 3, Season One). Ultimately, who is the betrayer? His wife claims she has never known him, perhaps it is the other way around. Lee Battle, the young, extremely talented actor who plays the blue-streaked Connor Peterson, his son, should have a long career ahead of him. This is a perfect mix of story and medium of delivery. As Brian Peterson gazes out of a taxi window passing street after fogbound street, you understand that each street is full of stories, each person's life with it's moments of drama. Born story-tellers know from a young age that all around them, others are leading their separate, secret lives. "The Street" allows us to peer into a portion of this mystery.

In "Sean and Yvonne," Lee Ingleby ("Harry Potter" and "George Gently") as Sean O'Neill, and Christine Bottomley (Hope Springs) as his beautiful, battered wife Yvonne drive one of the more harrowing episodes. In a previous story, "Asylum," we understand that Yvonne is as lost and afraid as the Nigerian refugee she connects with and tries to help. Joanne Froggatt ("Downton Abbey") is driven, focused perfection as Yvonne's more privileged sister Kerry; as Aunt Kerry, she dives in to aid her niece Leah O'Neill. With heartbreaking sadness, young Danielle Robinson plays Leah, a child witnessing and surviving the destructive evil of her parents' relationship. This is harrowing stuff, yet finely done. Lee Ingelby is coiled, manic, menacing violence, while Christine Bottomley is a revelation; what acting and sharp observations of flawed human characters.

David Thewlis (familiar to Harry Potter fans) can't be missed in the aptly named and fiercely engrossing "Twin," where envy, loyalty, love, and dreadful decisions culminate in an honest denouement. In "Old Flame," Timothy Spall ("Harry Potter" too) is a beleaguered taxi driver whose life crashes due to his foibles. The scene with his wife on the bus, facing breast cancer, is inspired poetry, Shakespearean without being derivative, "redundant t*ts" and all; no one does the English language better than this. You just have to see and hear it. In "Taxi," Matt Smith ("Doctor Who") faces the horror of being falsely accused and familial treachery; his parents are superbly played by Grace Cassidy and Oliver Stokes. Whilst in lock-up, his father offers sage advice. The story has one of the most satisfying endings ever.

"The Letter" is a remarkable story about an unlikely but much-needed friendship between a beleaguered, thieving postman (Mark Benton) and a lost kid (Michael Taylor, great young actor)), with Dean Andrews ("Life On Mars" and its sequel "Ashes to Ashes") as a kindly colleague. The scene with the doctor saying, on request in really "plain English," to the dissolute, injured postman that "your back is f****d" is perfection. Been there!

"The Promise." There are no words. But I will try; Toby Kebbell is "Paul Billerton," a character who appears so detestable that one wonders what kind of promise he could possibly make that matters. Then we meet a bereaved mother, Jodhi May as "Jean Lefferty." And everything wobbles. Written by Jimmy McGovern, directed by David Blair, the performances are beyond description. Michelle Fairly (as Paul's mother) and Mary Jo Randle ("The Lakes"), as Jean's mother, are both superb (as always). Again, another young actor in "The Street" is amazing; Kyle Ward as "young Paul."

The great Bob Hoskins is the lead in "Paddy," another fable about fate & courage; in "The Street," truth of spirit will out. Liam Cunningham is the menacing bully, Jasmine Franks ("Morse") is wonderful as Paddy's wife Orla, as is Charlotte Lewis ("The Lakes") Liam's wife Siobhan. In "Dee," Anna Friel completely is Dee, caught between a surprisingly deep new relationship with Mark (Daniel Mays of "Ashes to Ashes"); her lovable gingery sons are played with perfection by more supremely talented young actors (Jordan Hill and Sam Lenthall); Mark's parents are the memorable David Bradely ("Harry Potter" again!) and Barbara Martin as his wife, placed on a horrible pedestal she never wanted to be on. "Soldiers" explores scarring within and without, with Nick (Jonas Armstrong) and his friend Vinny (Martin Walsh) deeply damaged by war; Nick's girlfriend "Gemma" (luminously played by Emily Beecham) fights to teach him about the real meaning of beauty. "Polish" takes another obnoxious character, barking chef Kieran (beautifully and precisely played by Joseph Mawle), and turns preconceptions upside-down; shame hovers like a thick fog of cigarette smoke shrouding Keiran's dreadful decisions. He looses his heart to the lovely Olenka (Julia Krynke delicately allows emotion to ripple across her face). "Shay" (Stephen Graham spookily on target) plunges us into the lost world of an alcoholic meeting his ex (Maxine Peake is great) and his impaired but lovely son Otto, exquisitely played by Leon Harrop. The last episode is a tired flatliner, where McGovern shows his tenancy to destroy his characters. Despite this, and the grueling conflicts within "The Street," I can't recommend the series highly enough. Each riveting episode is dense, there's no excess or wasted scenes; they feel like feature-length films. All the writers, and the directors (David Blair and Terry McDonough), are the best of the best; the actors must have been thrilled to push the envelope the way they freed them to.

The only caveat is that unfortunately, for those in noisy environments where the telly is hard to hear, or for those hard of hearing, subtitles are not provided.
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