Cyberbully, Channel4 - review: Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

This thriller was that rare thing - a show that connected with teens and oldsters

Ellen E. Jones
Friday 16 January 2015 01:00
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Confining the action to a single location is a classic technique used by film-makers to showcase invention and/or create claustrophobic tension, but it can't work without great performances.

At just 17, Maisie Williams (best known as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones) has single-handedly risen to that challenge in the one-off thriller Cyberbully (Channel 4), which took place in real time and never left her character's bedroom. She played Casey, a typically connected teen, who reaches crisis point when her laptop and social media accounts were compromised by a mysterious and malicious hacker.

Writer/director Ben Chanan consulted both Williams and his own teenage daughter to ensure any Dad-isms were ironed out of the script and it worked – though, of course, I'm far too elderly to say for sure. Having a Facebook account is no longer enough qualify you as digitally savvy, as Casey indicated when she moaned about her mum joining Snapchat. These teens don't just use the internet, they live and breathe it, jumping back and forth between different communication platforms, while steering clear of embarrassingly dated lingo like "BFF" and "LOL".

Cyberbully's script cranked up an impressive amount on tension in only an hour of screen time and also made some thought-provoking suggestions. Was Casey the cyber-bullied or the cyber-bully? And are such distinctions even useful in an online world where exposure to trolling, slut-shaming and other new media nasties is the price of entry? "See, this is how I know you're old, you don't get it!" screamed Casey, at one point, to the stalker on her screen. "Of course it's not OK, it's fucking nasty, but it's normal, it happens."

This was that rare programme that felt authentic enough to persuade teens, while also engaging older viewers. TV for all the family, then; provided you could persuade your teen to put down their smartphone for long enough to watch.

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