sat 20/07/2024

Mum and Dad Are Splitting Up, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

Mum and Dad Are Splitting Up, BBC Two

Mum and Dad Are Splitting Up, BBC Two

Strong documentary tells of the heavy toll on children of relationship breakdown

Uneasy company? Daisy, whose parents broke up two years ago, when she was 14BBC/Rare Day/Will Edwards

Parents who separate make their children old before their time. The five young people in Olly Lambert’s spare and frank BBC2 documentary, Mum and Dad Are Splitting Up, certainly know more about dysfunctional adults than you would wish upon a child. Joining the pet rabbit and the little brothers and sisters at home have been alcohol, jealousy, non-communication, disillusionment and deception.

The parents, now apart, were interviewed, for the most part, together, their wise child sitting in; they told the camera what you wish they had told Relate, or better still, each other, before the point of no return.

Darryl, whose parents split up when he was 10, thought the big announcement was going to be about a holiday in Swanage. He clearly lives in hope of Peter and Julie getting back together. But it’s complicated. Now there is John, who consoled Julie when her dad died. And Peter thought her dad came round too often, anyway. And John has the dog. Painfully, parents and child stumble to the conclusion: it’s all over. “No one’s talking,” says Darryl. “This could all have been avoided.”

Tasha (pictured right) had no desire to see reconciliation. Her mother when young fell for the DJ with the long golden curls. He preferred slippers to grooves once the flirtation turned into marriage with children. Then he preferred to push off entirely. Tasha, interviewed in the bedroom she has plastered with pictures of everyone except her dad, said: “I consider him not to be my dad. I just want to move on.” She has found a Good Charlotte song on the internet that articulates what she feels. She doesn’t want a crowd, just her boyfriend and her family. Oh, and she has problems trusting people. Thanks, dad.

At nine, Natasha asked her mum for her favourite, Spanish dressing-up frock, and was told it was in the new house, and not to tell dad. Stick by stick, her mother Sue secretly emptied the family home into a new address, then told Natasha they would move in a few months’ time, before clearing out the next day. Six years later, Natasha, an impressive gymnast, is back with her father, and has not spoken to her mother for 18 months. Lambert reunites them, to tearful effect.

Then there is Daisy: “I wouldn’t say the break-up was my fault … but maybe we were too ungrateful.” Oh Daisy, Daisy – have you read Jude the Obscure? Listen: your parents’ break-up is no one’s fault but their own. Please don’t sob, because now we are all sobbing, and you have been so calm and graceful, oh, and brought up little Alice and Hebe too. So, someone just take those parents out and bang their heads together.

It should be compulsory viewing for those who are restless in their relationship

Edward’s dad could have done that job: domestic violence had been his pitch, laced with a good deal of booze. Now he wears a beige V-neck, looks benign. Edward, who has the same dark good looks as his father, Alfie, when young, got into trouble at school, discovering that it would bring dad back home, to investigate; and with the police, ditto; and stole a car because he thought that was the way he was supposed to be a man. He sent a message that should stop any departing male in his tracks: “You need a dad. In the chain of life, your dad should be above you.”

Lambert’s few, quiet, off-camera prompts – at times priestly, “Why didn’t you ask for forgiveness?”, at times direct, “Have you got a problem with alcohol?” – were the only indication that these sombre children and their floundering parents were doing anything other than talking off the cuff. As the young sat up on straight-backed chairs and the mums and dads spread hopelessly on couches, it was the sons and daughters who were in every sense above the dads – and mums.

Gently filmed, with tender location shots of modest homes where dreams failed to come true, Mum and Dad Are Splitting Up was an exemplary piece of documentary-making – compassionate, truthful, and sensitive enough to know that when the tears start rolling, that’s the camera’s cue to stop. It should be compulsory viewing for those who are restless in their relationships. A little dullness is a small price to pay to preserve your child’s innocence. It goes soon enough.

The film is compassionate, truthful, and sensitive enough to know that when the tears start rolling, that’s the camera’s cue to stop


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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