TV review: Olivia Colman's performance is reason enough to watch Run

Also: Broken by Battle, BBC1

Channel 4 seems to have acquired a taste for tangled one-offs, that is self-contained dramas that are connected by loose threads to others in the same series. It isn't a new idea exactly. Paul Abbott did it in the excellent Clocking Off and Jimmy McGovern explored its possibilities in The Street. More recently, Channel 4's Dates drew on the combination of freshness and familiarity it can offer, the odd sense that you know more than a particular episode is telling you, because you've encountered the characters in other circumstances. Run, an account of south London underbelly life, is clearly going to do something similar, with an incidental character in this first episode providing the central figure for the next.

Last night, though, the focus was entirely on Carol, a fretted, put-upon mother of two semi-feral teenagers. "They're still boys to me," she tells a work colleague, but they're pretty horrible boys, making their first impression on us with the off-screen slap we hear one of them giving his girlfriend. Carol, played by Olivia Colman as a woman scuffed into roughness by the injuries of her life, is trying to maintain the semblance of a domestic life. But her sons won't compromise any of their own whims to make it happen. "Ain't eating in there... TV isn't even working properly," one of them whines after she's cooked supper for them.

Carol's life is about to get worse – her boys kill a passer-by for no reason but pathologically inflated pride and Carol is driven to conceal the evidence by maternal dread. She is, it becomes clear, half-embedded in the criminality that is routine for her estranged husband and sons, nicking iPhones from the distribution centre where she works and fencing them to a Chinese contact in the local launderette. She is also locked into it by her husband's reputation. When she goes with a friend for a night out, a man she starts to talk to tells her she's "off limits". Her ex doesn't want her but no one else is getting her either. In an oddly convincing touch (could it happen so neatly?), the sight of one of her sons biting into an apple, just as her vicious husband did a few hours earlier, shows Carol what's coming and persuades her to turn them in.

Whether there's much to be done with Run but endure it, I'm not sure. It belongs to a particular branch of British miserablism that seems to hold that the light just won't penetrate below a certain level of society. But if you value that kind of thing, and buy into its implicit link between grimness and artistic seriousness, it is very well done indeed, and Colman's performance justifies a viewing in itself, rasping the sweetness off any preconceptions about the kind of role she can play.

The grimness of Broken by Battle, a Panorama special about the rising rates of PTSD among veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars, had a purposeful design to it. It was intended to arouse our indignation at the Ministry of Defence's current treatment of psychologically wounded soldiers and it did it very effectively, with heartbreaking stories of those who had killed themselves long after coming back from the war zone. In one painful sequence, a young soldier videoed a last message to his mother on his mobile phone, a keffiyeh scarf wrapped around his head. He was literally, on a suicide mission, like the young men he'd once helped fight. But he was weeping, not exultant, and the only target he had in mind was himself.

Toby Harnden's report convincingly offered a picture of scrappy provision, bureaucratic carelessness and cruel illogic in the MoD's current arrangement. A senior officer said they needed more research. "Once we've got some statistics, we can start to do something about it," he said. Why not start now and try to make the statistic smaller?

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power