Sky Atlantic's latest thriller, Save Me, means trouble right from the off. Written, created by and starring Lennie James, the thriller has plenty going for it, including an impressive performance by Doctor Foster''s Suranne Jones and a triggering, edge-of-your-seat (although often far-fetched) script that dances around issues of class, monogamy and race. In a genuinely original, thought-inducing move, the drama even offers up the idea of a 'good' paedophile.
Re-acquainted with his now well-off ex-girlfriend Claire (Doctor Foster's Suranne Jones), a dark and troubling story begins to unfurl around them, as the two club together, dispense of the apparently impossibly incompetent police enquiry, and find themselves in ludicrously dangerous places on the hunt for their daughter.
Among the clever, interesting twists and turns of James' drama, there's plenty here to recognise from the litany of missing child dramas that have poured out at us recently.
In the past six months alone, Channel 4 have hosted a major drama, Kiri, about the murder of a young black girl. In September, the BBC aired the short TV film starring Benedict Cumberbatch called The Child in Time, about a couple whose lives fall to pieces after their toddler was snatched. Themes of missing children infused their way into the BBC's first horror show Requiem and will be back centre stage in a The Cry, about the abduction of a newborn baby boy. Before that, famously, there was Don’t Look Now and The Missing, with a missing or dead child at their core. Why are we so obsessed with missing child dramas?
The children in these dramas aren't actually in these dramas, of course – the point is that the kid is absent. The children don't really have a personality, instead they are more or less just 'gone'. We get to imagine their innocence, and project our love for our own children onto them.
The parents and guardians get to step up and become brave, twisted and interesting. For many, it's the 'damsel in distress' narrative of the 21st century. As in the famous Liam Neeson film Taken, parents can become superheroes, going to the ends of the earth to rescue their kin from the clutches of evil.
We have the father who pushes himself eventually to a nervous breakdown in Broadchurch, and one who pulls his life together to out-wit the police investigation in Save Me. As has been pointed out many times before, it's normally the father's who get to step into the limelight – but in Stranger Things it was Winona Ryder's portrayal of mother demented that stole the show.
There's been a push-back against the rape, murder and mutilation of women on screen and in our books recently. Frankly, our preoccupation with children being stolen, killed or sold for sex is also quite unsettling.
Save Me was great storytelling, and introduced new themes and ideas to our TV screens. But perhaps, after The Cry on BBC, we can find something else to hang these ideas on, and something else to obsess about.
|What||Why are we so obsessed with missing children? Save Me review, Sky Atlantic|
28 Feb 18 – 30 Apr 18, Save me Sky Atlantic air date and time: TBD