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National Treasure out on DVD

Monday, 31 October 2016 00:00 Written by 

National Treasure - out now on DVDRobbie Coltrane and Julie Walters star in this drama about a famous comedic actor falling from grace. Paul Finchley (Coltrane – Hagrid in the “Harry Potter” movies, Cracker) is one half of a long-standing and very successful double act. Life is good and everyone adores him, but then the police notify him of some historical sexual assault charges that have been made against him, and his apparently perfect world starts to implode.

Recently broadcast on Channel 4, the mini-series was crafted by two BAFTA-winners - writer Jack Thorne (various This is England series, The Fades), and director Marc Munden (“The Mark of Cain”, Utopia). The series also features Tim McInnery (Black Adder, “Notting Hill”) as Karl, the other half of the comedy duo, and Andrea Riseborough (“Made in Dagenham”) as the Finchley’s mentally unstable daughter.

The spectre of Operation Yewtree lurks around every corner of this disturbing and often distressing production. It does not take long to realise that, guilty or not, Paul Finchley and those closest to him, especially his family, are going to suffer lasting damage after the case has closed. Old secrets will be uncovered and the ugly truth behind the life of this cherished but rather enfeebled actor will have the brightest glare of publicity shone upon it.

Coltrane is absolutely stunning at the heart of the drama, all smiles and rosy warmth on the surface, but one never shakes the sense that this is a large man in all regards hiding even larger, unsavoury details about his past and his personality.

Walters is also terrific, stoic and devoted but at the same time rather vulnerable and wounded. Here is a woman who has lived in the shadow of her famous husband for decades whilst remaining strong.

Most fascinating is Riseborough’s performance as Dee, the daughter, a recovering addict with a history of psychological issues. As prickly as they come but liable, you sense, to crack like thin ice over a very deep, dark body of water, she is as mesmerising as she is unpredictable.

McInnery’s character does not feature very heavily but when he does, he oozes onto the screen, pledging his allegiance to Paul and family but his persona suggests that self-interest may come first. A nod should also go out for the crafty, highly charismatic and confident performance of Babou Ceesay as Jerome, Paul’s lawyer.

The series does its best to keep the viewer unsettled by shading everything in a queasy, sickly yellow-green tint, focusing very tightly on blemished, strained faces and using depth of field to constantly shift elements of the scene out of focus. Perhaps a metaphor for the way the truth behind the alleged sex crimes is elusive, these visual techniques are very effective and are ably complemented by the off-colour, demented musical score.

If you want a relatively succinct, easy-to-follow drama with excellent acting, I would not hesitate to recommend National Treasure. I would, however, warn prospective viewers that it is not a comforting tale, and Coltrane’s performance is so realistic you almost feel like you are voyeuristically invading his privacy, coming out the other end feeling sullied.

National Treasure (2016) is released out now on DVD, courtesy of Acorn Media UK. The single disc has a running time of 180 minutes appro., carries a '15' certificate and retails for £19.99, or less from