“The Virtues”: One of the best miniseries of the year has arrived in Portugal (no exaggeration)
It’s a heavy and realistic drama about repressed trauma. It only has four episodes and can be seen in one afternoon.
Stephen Graham is the protagonist.
It’s called “The Virtues” and is a discreet British miniseries that debuted on English television two years ago. This Thursday, January 28th, finally arrives in Portugal: it is available on the Filmin streaming platform, mainly dedicated to independent and authoring cinema.
It is the latest project from Shane Meadows, the director best known for the fantastic film “This is England” and the various TV spin-offs that resulted from it. Meadows met with Jack Thorne to orchestrate a story based on his real-world experiences. But let’s go.
First, it’s useful to explain the simple premise for this four-episode miniseries. A middle-aged man finds himself in a particularly difficult phase in life when his nine-year-old son moves to Australia with his mother (his ex-wife) and stepfather.
Fearing that he will not endure the emotional catastrophe that has afflicted him – and in a desperate attempt not to succumb to alcoholism and return – Joseph (that is the protagonist’s name) returns to his native Ireland to reunite to be his sister you have I haven’t seen it since you were kids.
The starting point is the drop of water that brought Joseph into this desperate situation. What we do from there – and over the course of the four episodes – is to deconstruct that person and recognize the problems and trauma that brought them to where they are today and that made them that person have who she is. The return trip to Ireland, where he will face the past, serves just that.
We can’t reveal much more about the story – because the purpose of the series and part of what it does so well is the discovery process. “The Virtues” is superbly filmed by Shane Meadows, with an inherent realism that is sublime. The scenes literally don’t appear staged at all – it doesn’t seem like they were orchestrated for an audience to see at home.
The experience is like watching a conversation between two strangers; or interrupt someone we know to talk about something we don’t understand. The context does not exist, but little by little we realize what is happening – and obvious clues are not necessary, as in the vast majority of television and cinema.
Stephen Graham is the great protagonist as Joseph. The 47-year-old actor (who previously worked with Meadows on “This Is England”) is brilliant on paper. He shows again how he is one of the most undervalued names in the business when talking about great actors of his generation.
It is an extremely difficult performance with many different emotional states, repressed trauma, panic attacks and happy drinking that obscures deep sadness, moments of compassion and anger. Graham is forced to use almost the full range of emotions in four episodes – and best interprets this simple man who is deeply shaped by the problems of his life, who is sometimes rational and who is sometimes tarnished by emotions, who reacts impulsively.
“The Virtues” is a heavy and heavy melodrama that is full of tension and gives us other good characters. Such is the case of Joseph’s sister Anna (Helen Behan), who leads a normal life and doesn’t know what will trigger her brother’s return. or her sister-in-law Dinah (Niamh Algar), who also has trauma and will end up taking a path parallel to Joseph’s if we go to the tragic end of the conspiracy.
As is often the case in real life, it’s a simple and linear story, but full of nuances that make it complex. It’s rich, dense, multi-faceted, and with several unpredictable twists and turns. It’s a number of sensations, for example Shane Meadows filmed the cloudy flashback scenes like it was an 80s VHS tape. How he feels
“The Virtues” has less dialogue than other works by Shane Meadows – silence is a relevant part as we can absorb the characters’ feelings and emotions through their small facial expressions and body language. It’s an excellent job by the actors.
The production includes a soundtrack by PJ Harvey. Another fascinating element is that it takes a lot of real life inspiration from the director. In an interview with The Guardian in 2019 about the premiere of this miniseries, Shane Meadows revealed how he was a victim of sexual abuse in his childhood, how he had a very restless youth (which, by the way, formed the basis for the story of “This is England”) And how this is clearly reflected in “The Virtues”.
This is another project on your resume that tells part of your story. Joseph is like his alter ego, someone who delves into the past and tries to resolve the repressed trauma we viewers discover when they emerge again and when he confronts them.
It is one of those series that promises to accompany viewers for the intensity of the story and the emotions for some time after the end. Well worth making this journey – each episode lasts around 45 minutes, except for the last which is an hour and a half.