REVIEW / Proof that there's no nobility in suffering

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The Independent Culture
'I'VE ALWAYS enjoyed trying to prove people wrong,' said Julia, a little way into True Stories (C 4). Nothing wrong with that, you thought, as a principle by which a disabled person might confront the complacent expectations of society. But should a baby really represent a particularly challenging obstacle in someone's private assault course? Marilyn Gaunt's remarkable film recorded the collision of two sacrosanct liberal orthodoxies - that the disabled should get a fair deal and that young children should be protected. Blind since the age of four and profoundly deaf since 20, Julia was determined to bring up her baby. The real problem was that she wanted to do it on her own.

'I don't take kindly to interference,' she said, 'I don't want some bossy-boots slipping in here telling me what to do.' The unfortunate social worker lumbered with the case described this attitude as 'stubborn', which was charitable of her, to say the least. She was going to get grief whatever happened. Julia is living proof that suffering doesn't necessarily ennoble, so the extra anxiety and work seems unlikely to be rewarded with any warmth (she is such a pain to live with that even her social workers need social workers). And if something goes wrong she can probably write the tabloid headlines herself.

Gaunt's film showed that the dilemma was a real one, not a mad suspension of common sense. It was clear from some scenes that Julia was literally clinging on by her fingertips, communicating through the flutter of the translator's hand in her own. Why should she be deprived of this love, you thought, after being deprived of so much else? Why should the disabled be obliging and biddable? Watching her feel her way tenderly around the baby's face you remembered that there are thousands of able- bodied parents who are able to do awful things to their children.

Then Julia would say something and all the doubts would resurface. 'I don't think it'll be an awful lot different - the first year, anyway - than looking after a dog,' she noted, which was not so much a comprehension gap as the comprehension equivalent of the Grand Canyon. Properly, Gaunt's film couldn't make its mind up either, including moving scenes of mother and daughter together and more disturbing moments - Julia sitting on the sofa equably stroking the dog while the baby, unseen and unheard, wailed in the cot beside her. She didn't want to lean too much on the child when it was older, she said, but in truth she already was, clutching it to her as a triumphant badge of equality. Life's been unfair to Julia, as it sometimes is. We'll have to wait to see whether it's been as unfair to her daughter.

'Why do you think I swan about in a bowler hat?' said Warren Davies in Moving Story (ITV). 'Why do you think Adrenalin never says any words until after he's finished the sentence?' Because this is the first episode of a new comedy drama, shouted a voice from the stalls, and you need your main characters to look distinctive and colourful. Shut up and let me watch, shouted another voice, I'm enjoying this.

There was something a little programmatic about the first of Jack Rosenthal's removal-men drama - a blend of trade secrets, in-jokes and humane narrative which was familiar from his earlier plays. The characters are as crisply differentiated as a set of novelty gonks, each with his identifying traits and private goals, but it's nicely acted and never lazy. Lots of writers might have thought of making Warren Clarke's foreman a relentless autodidact; not everyone would have seen how engaging it could be if he keeps on getting his facts wrong.

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