Single Father on DVD

Monday, 03 January 2011 11:33

David Tennant followed up his lengthy TV stint on Doctor Who with this emotional family drama. Coming down to Earth with a distinct thump, Tennant is Dave, a photographer in a long term relationship with Rita (Laura Fraser – Casanova, Neverwhere). Between them they have five offspring; one each in prior marriages and three together. Everything changes when Rita is killed in a road traffic accident.

Dave’s parenting skills are put to the ultimate test as he struggles to keep it together in the face of disabling grief, despair and anger. He turns to friends and family for support, not least Sarah (Suranne Jones – Five Days, The Sarah Jane Adventures) who was Rita’s best friend. Finding himself inexorably attracted to her, Dave must decide where his priorities lie if he is to keep his life and family together.

Single Father on DVDThis twisting four-part drama really puts Tennant’s acting abilities to the test, and he comes through with flying colours. Where his performances on Who were frequently fairly one- or two-dimensional (by necessity), here he goes through the entire spectrum of emotions. For example, when the news is first broken to him that his partner has been fatally run over, by the police, the choking panic, dread and disbelief are palpable with Dave literally gasping for breath. He manages to fight off the despair for a while but ultimately he and we know it will catch up with him, and sure enough when he breaks down we are so moved by Tennant’s performance that we cannot help but empathise.

The character of Dave is not limited to doom and gloom from there on, though, and there are some terrific moments of humour, passion and uplifting determination to rise above it all. The story takes place over a period of 22 weeks, including just prior to the accident, and if you plotted out the emotional highs and lows of the drama, the result would look like a very choppy sea!

Dave’s challenges come from within and without his direct household, and his predicament has serious, corrosive knock-on effects on people and relationships around him. Rita’s fifteen-year-old daughter from another relationship, Lucy (Natasha Watson – New Town) goes off the rails and feels she has totally lost her parental connection in the family, seeking out her biological father as a result. One of Dave and Rita’s young sons intentionally self-harms to seek attention, and Tanya (Sophie Kennedy Clark), Dave’s grown-up daughter from his previous relationship becomes a focal point for his anger and resentment which, seeing as she works for him at the photographic studio, makes life difficult both at home and at work.

Although Tennant leads the way in terms of sheer acting quality, the rest of the cast is also terrific, and though this is Dave’s story, Mick Ford’s writing creates much more of an ensemble piece that you might imagine. Jones plays Sarah with vulnerability and at the same time immense inner strength; Watson typifies the adolescent girl on the cusp of adulthood, at times hysterical but also alarmingly level-headed and sharp. Neve McIntosh provides Dave with solid guidance as his sister-in-law Anna, and Mark Heap plays his usual endearing and humourous softy as Anna’s husband Robin, though this time he is more grounded and less wild!

Sam Miller directed the serial by keeping the cameras a good distance away from the actors, and as they say in the ‘Making Of’ featurette (all eight-and-a-half minutes of it), this gave the cast room to breathe and settle into their parts more naturally than they might otherwise have done. The picture has a strange yellow tint (at least until near the end) which takes some getting used to and slightly jars. Perhaps this was an intentional device to illustrate that all is far from right in Dave’s world?

The only special feature on the disc is the aforementioned ‘Making Of’, which is very short and quite sweet. An ensemble commentary track might have been nice.

“Single Father” (2010) is out now, courtesy of 2entertain. The running time is 240 minutes approx, certificate ‘15’, and the DVD retails for £19.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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