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TV Review: The Other Mother, The Way Out, Charlie Brooker’s Antiviral Wipe, and David Stratton’s Stories of Australian Cinema

22 May 2020

BBC/Netflix/Matt Holyoak

Charlie Brooker’s Antiviral Wipe is on BBC Two

Charlie Brooker’s Antiviral Wipe is on BBC Two

IS IT a rocket? No, it’s a church — St Joseph’s, Le Havre, to be precise. But, to a three-year-old, the im­­­mensely elongated open lantern above the altar does indeed look more like something designed for outer space than mere human as­­pira­­­­­­­­­­tion for God. The child is three-year-old Malone, star of The Other Mother (Channel 4, first episode on 3 May, remaining five episodes on All 4), an immensely stylish French thriller.

The child’s sophis­ticated draw­ings, and his insistence that the woman who brings him to school is not his real mother, attracts the attention of a child psychologist, and then the police, slowly revealing the links to a murderous robbery. The plot is nonsensical, but the verve and pace make this — if you can bear the villain’s blood-curdling menace — satisfying lockdown entertainment. And the child actor is astonishing, although he must share the spotlight with Gouti, his toy and fa­­­miliar.

Creative types, like clergy, em­­brace severe restrictions, such as those currently imposed, as a gate­way into new realms of the imagination — or, at least, I realise that to be the intention behind your YouTube version of state matins. In The Way Out (Sunday), BBC4 showed us how the professionals do it. A distant reworking of Alice in Wonderland presented an enigmatic journey, filmed live in one take, through the faded magnificence of the Battersea Arts Centre.

Song, dance, visual dressing, and circus acts combined to widen our perceptions, unsettle our certainties, and encourage us to redefine our very selves. Or, perhaps, to intone a sequence of gnomic utterances as pre­­­­­­­tentious as they were bleeding obvious.

Charlie Brooker’s Antiviral Wipe (BBC2, Thursday of last week) hardly had to do any work at all to uncover, in TV coverage of our Gov­ernment’s response to the pandemic, a deep vein of confusion. This biting satire re­­quired all the forensic expertise and professional skill neces­sary to, say, shoot fish in a barrel, and only a pathetically immature viewer would have found it even slightly amusing. I laughed and laughed and laughed.

David Stratton’s Stories of Au­­stralian Cinema (BBC4, Sundays 3, 10, and 17 May) presented us with a treasure-chest of movie riches: a fledgeling national industry that ma­t­­­ured with impressive alacrity. There is wide resonance to its themes: strangers and newcomers in an un­­familiar place, the outsider learning how to belong, whether the endless bush is a hostile graveyard or a be­­nign partner to be respected, offer­ing sustenance and shelter, if only you know how to look for it? Do we seek conformity, or celebrate weird and outlandish individuals?

Stratton’s eagerness to communi­cate his love of the subject was ad­­­mirable; but the series felt slack, and I found the account of his life and career verging on self-indulgence.

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