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Friday, 18 February 2011

The Promise (Channel 4)

Channel 4 have excelled themselves with their new four-part drama The Promise (Sunday nights). It is utterly beautiful and perfectly written, acted and shot. The series begins with Erica (the fantastic Claire Foy) clearing through the possessions of her dying Grandfather, Len. She discovers a diary among his things chronicling his time in the army, stationed in Palestine in 1945. Erica's best friend, Eliza, has dual-nationality and has to return to Israel in a week's time to complete her national service and has invited Erica over to stay with her and her family for the summer.

As Erica reads through her Grandfather's old diary, his involvement with some of the terrible things that happened at this time come to light - told through flashbacks with 'Demons' star Christian Cooke playing the young Len. 

The parallels between the occurrences in 1945 and those today do not go unnoticed by the intelligent Erica and she sets about retracing Len's footsteps on a personal, emotional mission to find out exactly what happened when he was serving. A supporting cast of "oh it's him from..." actors (including Coupling actor Ben Miles as Eliza's father) bring a heartbreaking and sometimes disturbing journey for 18-year-old Erica right into the homes of those watching. This isn't one for the squeamish. 

The dangerous, hateful environment of post-war Palestine and modern-day, politically-unstable Israel are brought to gorgeous, harrowing life by some of the best-shot scenes I have ever witnessed on television. 

Written by the brilliant Peter Kosminsky, The Promise gets right to the underlying heart of the problems in Israel today - but don't worry if you know nothing whatsoever about the problems there, as all is explained for you, subtly, throughout the series; indeed, explained better  and more fairly than most news reports have managed in recent years. There is a lot to take in, however, so this isn't one to sit down to with a bag of Doritos and a beer. Instead, settle down with a cup of tea and kid-free living room and devour this drama as I have.

I don't remember enjoying a television drama miniseries this much since Paul Abbot's State Of Play many years ago. This is something special, something important and something that everyone should at least take a look at. Rarely is such a delicate subject handled with such care whilst still exposing the bare, decaying bones of the issue. I cannot wait for the DVD release on February 28th. Simply outstanding television.