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

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks