Review

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The Independent Culture
Some weeks, Cutting Edge (C4) is pretty much what its series title suggests - a tool fit for the dissection of social tumours or the severing of bureaucratic knots. On other weeks, however, you could not use it to slice custard. Last night's film about people who had been jilted fell into the harmlessly blunt category and, though it wasn't a bad film (I will come back to the slightly enervating nature of its virtues), it demonstrated the ever- present temptation of Oprahfication - the application of talk-show principles to serious documentary strands in order to boost the average figures. At one point in Russell England's film, he allowed a late-night radio call-in for disappointed lovers to introduce a particular character, a device which virtually forced you to ask the question of precisely how you might distinguish one media treatment from the other. And, in its prevailing tone, the film more than once raised the terrible ghost of Simon Bates's "Our Tune", a radio feature which similarly traded on intense emotion recollected in rueful tranquillity.

Any simple equation would be a little harsh on England's film, which managed to sketch in an implicit theme alongside the simple schadenfreude of its anecdotal passages. If there was something that linked all four couples - or uncouplings - it was the presence of an intense romanticism centred on the ceremony itself. In all cases, it seemed, there was at least one party who desperately wanted a wedding, but hadn't properly considered whether they wanted the marriage that came with it and as the daydream began to come into focus, they suddenly saw the chain connecting the two. It is also true that such confessions can be compelling (after all, if Oprahfication didn't work they wouldn't be doing it).

Here, the most striking story was that of Clare, an attractive woman with a body-image problem who had fallen in love with Tony, a man doing time for armed robbery: "I knew that he couldn't run away," she said, but, unfortunately for her, they let him out before the ceremony and he did just that. She had taken consolation on the Internet, flirting with strangers in the guise of a physically perfect blonde called Demi Lee. Although Tony had returned for another go, she was shown still tapping out details of her lacy underwear for some onehanded keyboard player down the wires, as though she intend- ed to spread her bets this time. There was also a touching story about an elderly woman who discovered that her jilting by a French sailor may have saved her from a lifetime of misery - visiting his family, 50 years on, she discovered he had received brain injuries during the war and spent the last 26 years of his life in a mental institution.

England's film was well-crafted but, as I hinted earlier, it was so in ways which are solidifying into cliche by the day. It sported all the fashionable accoutrements the well-dressed documentary is wearing these days - square-on portrait framing, a montage sequence cut to Fifties music, visual stings to bring a sequence to a close and, above all, postcard close-ups of ornamental detail. This last device is not intrinsically snobbish, but it is unusually prone to superior glances - it was notable here, for instance, that Fiona's little pottery cottages were given the full-screen treatment, while the interior of Amanda's country house was left alone, seen at a scale which did not invite our comments.

This Life (BBC2) returned with a hangover, a mighty party having washed through the house and left it littered with clinking flotsam and emotional wash-ups. In the lavatory, Warren is doing a passable imitation of a hippo's mating cry, while upstairs Miles is parting his trembling eyelids to discover that he has had unsafe sex with Anna - a condom offering no protection whatsoever against embarrassment and wounded pride. "Right. That's it," says Warren, "I'm off the booze for ever. I mean it. It's drugs only from now on" - a line that hovered nicely between a gag and a sociological detail. The account of youthful excess was almost good enough to make me glad that I'm getting past it.

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