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.