TELEVISION / Rough justice

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The Independent Culture
THERE'S a line in Carousel (see Paul Taylor's review, below) which suggests that you can be hit hard by those who love you and it won't really hurt. It's meant to be a testament to the redemptive power of love and the forgiveness of the victim - but it's a grotesque moment, apparently insensible of the doubled pain of being attacked by someone whom you should be able to trust. For anyone still humming this particular tune, Short Stories (C 4) would have proved a timely corrective.

When Michael was given two years' probation for assaulting his partner Bernice, his sentence included counselling for violence. The film followed his encounters with the head of the Everyman centre and it drew its emotional power from the opposition of his apparently genuine remorse to her entirely understandable mistrust. 'I don't think he's cured at all and I don't think he thinks he is' said Bernice warily, though she conceded that something was happening to improve matters.

The cure itself was a touchy- feely affair - everyone hugged in a slightly self-conscious manner when they came into the room, adding manly back-slaps just to show that nothing funny was going on. Then they sat, hands clasped, and talked about how bad they felt. If you still had fresh bruises, these expressions of regret might have seemed a bit rich. Some of those on screen seemed to have got the patter off a little bit too glibly ('Makes me feel small enough to . . . like. . . walk under a snake's belly,' said one) and the words 'Never again' are presumably already wearisomely familiar to battered women.

But neither that, nor the fog of psycho-babble that hung over the proceedings could conceal the fact that something truthful was taking place. Michael's father had been violent, both to him and his mother, and his grief when talking about it was painful to watch. He talked later of 'hitting the age of 30 and discovering you detest the person you are'. There was no easy ending: Bernice still distrustful, Michael aware that his son was growing up without him. You held your breath as he described his feelings about this, hoping he wouldn't lapse into self-pity and he didn't. 'Hands up,' he said, 'It's me. It's my fault.' That hit home hard.