while these are furiously fascinating procedural dramas, neither of them
reaches the emotional ambition of Anthony. Penned by screenwriter Jimmy
McGovern (Care), this TV movie is a kind of metafictional examination of
18-year-old Anthony Walker, who was murdered in 2005 by racists in Merseyside.
Photo: BBC/LA Productions
of beginning with a set-up of Anthony’s life prior to his murder, we start with
Richard Osman. Yes, that Richard Osman, the Pointless friend from Pointless.
He gives a speech at a lavish awards do, mentioning Anthony. In this version
of events, Anthony is 25. He has a wife, and a baby. He’s altruistic, relentlessly
Proceeding through a Memento-like reverse structure, the narrative
tracks backwards, year by year, before finally hitting that tragic end on 30 July 2005.
In essence, Anthony is a parallel, what-could-have-been fantasy that shakes, punches and bleeds into the
reality that was dealt.
based his screenplay around conversations with Anthony’s mother, Gee Walker (who appears at the end). He manages to balance bleak tragedy and pockets of humour with beautiful
delicacy. He revels in
the fantasy, painting Anthony into a rich and interesting life. This Anthony helps
his best friend Mick out of homelessness, he meets his future wife, he aspires to be
a civil rights lawyer, he plays as a Pointless contestant. These directions
cross into the unbelievable and borderline ridiculous with such joy and comedy.
Photo: BBC/LA Productions
actor Toheeb Jimoh, playing Anthony, is a remarkable find – to the point where
it’s inadequate to call his portrayal a ‘performance’. He storms and smiles with
relentless vigour, keeping a face of moral rationality. Even when hospitalised
after Mick punches him in the face, that grin never goes. There’s a permanent
legitimacy to him, and he retains a believable humanity. Bobby
Schofield is equally flawless as Mick, despite his character being entirely fabricated for the film.
Every enjoyably absurd moment wields a tragic weight, a constant
reminder of what will never happen. This bright, silly and
lovely life was stabbed out of existence with an axe sharpened by racism. And the other lives Anthony Walker could have improved and saved: all gone, too. Murder
entails the theft of potential as much as the life itself, and that burden
grows throughout Anthony. It’s a near-unbearable viewing experience,
drowned in tears and blood – concluding out of the clouds and down to harsh
and violent earth.
ending flickers into the semblance of a charity advert, needlessly explaining
that Anthony Walker never experienced the life he should’ve done. But, given
its premise, that’s difficult to avoid and carries a searing, painful punch –
especially as the final, funereal words drift into a still, single
shot of Gee Walker herself. Her face is full of hopeless hurt, as if all the tears have dried but the wounds inside continue to weep.
Although Anthony could never
have hoped to replicate Gee Walker's grief and trauma, McGovern moves us closer to comprehending
it. It’s one of the most inventively soul-shattering films of the year, TV and otherwise.
Anthony airs on Monday 27 July at 8:30pm on BBC One
|What||Anthony, BBC One review|
27 Jul 20 – 27 Jul 21, ON BBC ONE