Go to TV writing events and you'll hear everyone going on about how much they love "authored drama" – stuff with a strong personal voice. Last night's Dive (the first of a two-parter by writer/director Dominic Savage and co-writer Simon Stephens) certainly had a distinctive style, but it left me wondering if there was too much author and not enough drama.
Dive tells the story of Lindsey (Aisling Loftus), a talented teenage diver who is following a punishing training regime as she aims to represent Britain in the 2012 Olympics. However, it all starts to go pear-shaped when her dad (Ewan Bremner) moves out and – later the same day, apparently – her mum's new boyfriend Gary moves in.
Meanwhile, Lindsey starts to hang around with some of the Rougher Children, leading to a fumbling sexual encounter with charismatic bad-boy Robert (Jack O'Connell – Cook from Skins). And, despite the commendably thorough sex education we'd seen earlier in the episode, Lindsey later finds out she's pregnant.
The drama was shot in a very sparse and meditative way that was highly atmospheric but – to me, at least – a little distracting. The long pauses and awkward conversations rang true as a depiction of adolescent/family life, but many of the scenes were composed, art-directed and scored to within an inch of their lives.
As a result, it moved over into a more filmic treatment that inevitably draws comparison with stuff like Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank – alongside which Dive seemed pretty anaemic.
I suppose the question of how intrusive style should be requires more consideration than I can give it here. I experienced a similar feeling when I started to read literary fiction again after being immersed in scripts – my own and others' – for two years while doing my MA.
After the functional prose of scripts, during which we rely on character and action to create our emotional impact, I found overtly stylish prose to be a bit distracting and "look-at-me". A lot of the time I just wanted to know what happened next!
Anyway, the second part of Dive (tonight) focuses on Robert, as he comes to terms with the consequences of Lindsey's pregnancy. And, despite all the sour whinging above, I did enjoy the first part sufficiently to see it through.
BBC: press pack – including Dominic Savage on his research process
BBC TV blog by Aisling Loftus on rehearsing and filming Dive
Jane "my wife" Murphy's much better review of Dive on Orange