In Review

Anne review: Hillsborough drama is almost too painful to watch

ITV series tells the story of Anne Williams’s battle for justice

ITV’s four-part drama Anne serves as a reminder that even if we “all know about Hillsborough” – the 1989 FA Cup semi-final disaster in which 97 Liverpool fans were killed – “we didn’t live it, and then relive it, viscerally, relentlessly, as the bereaved did”, said Barbara Ellen in The Observer. Written by Kevin Sampson, who was at the game, the series follows Anne Williams (Maxine Peake), the mother of 15-year-old victim Kevin, as she fights, year after year, to “extract the truth from a swirling miasma of misinformation, police mistakes, cover-ups and lies”. Williams is living a “waking nightmare”, and Peake brilliantly captures her transformation from ordinary Liverpool mum to tenacious battler for truth. 

It would have been easy for the series to slide into “inspirational hagiography”, said Dan Einav in the FT. Instead, Anne shows us how Williams’s relationships, health and very identity were eroded by her “single-minded pursuit of justice”. The pacing could have been sped up a bit, and the writing sometimes lacks sharpness, but the heartrending power of many of the scenes more than makes up for these limitations. 

This is a fine drama, said Camilla Long in The Sunday Times – “tight and knotty and well acted”. But it’s so painful it’s virtually “unwatchable”. From the moment Kevin fails to come home, it’s clear that we’re about to watch a “shattered woman” facing a death sentence, without being able to actually die. I hate to ask, but isn’t this just a bit too much for cold nights in January?

Recommended

Best properties: houses around the UK average of £270,000
2 Old Rectory property
The wish list

Best properties: houses around the UK average of £270,000

Tonga’s tsunami: the aid effort turns political
A search and rescue team looking for a missing woman
In Brief

Tonga’s tsunami: the aid effort turns political

Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beaut – this may be ‘the show of the season’
Madame Butterfly (2000) by Helen Frankenthaler 
In Review

Helen Frankenthaler: Radical Beaut – this may be ‘the show of the season’

The Ticket Collector from Belarus: a ‘heart-rending tale’
Book cover
In Review

The Ticket Collector from Belarus: a ‘heart-rending tale’

Popular articles

Are we heading for a snap general election?
Jacob Rees-Mogg
Today’s big question

Are we heading for a snap general election?

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik
In Depth

Is Bosnia on the brink of another civil war?

Why is New Zealand shutting its borders again?
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern adjusts her face mask following a press conference
In Depth

Why is New Zealand shutting its borders again?

The Week Footer Banner