‘The A Word’ review: Episode 4 is both funny and frank

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If you have not yet warmed to Alison, the fierce mother brought to life by Morven Christie (Grantchester), we defy you not to feel some empathy for her in this week’s The A Word ep.

Settled on keeping Joe in mainstream education, his parents discover they will have to ‘play the game’ to secure the additional funding he needs. Undeterred, becomes a self-confessed spy behind enemy lines as she offers to hear readers and kicks off an application to be a parent governor (don’t worry though kids, the government is scheming to abolish them before she can do any damage!)

However, it was in the aftermath of Joe’s ill-fated sleepover with schoolmates Bill (allergies, nervy mother) and Ramesh (preternaturally wise), that we saw her hopes soar before crashing bitterly; she thought Joe showed signs of a breakthrough, recognising her emotions when looking at old photos, but he soon returned to his regular patterns of behaviour – something described as the ‘fever effect’.

As much as this is Joe’s story, this time the spotlight also shone intently on his sister. Through a series of moving scenes, Molly Wright led us on an all too familiar journey from confusion to sad realisation; first she was heartbroken, receiving the cold shoulder after sleeping with boyfriend Luke, then lifted when confiding in her uncle and aunt, and finally disappointed when it was clear the lad was no longer interested. The true heartbreak came in the fact that Rebecca was aware she was living a cliché.

The A Word 1 4 Rebecca Hughes (MOLLY WRIGHT)

Wright was also paired with Christopher Eccleston in touching scenes as Maurice acknowledged his conflict over the ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement with liberated singing teacher Louise (Pooky Quesnel) and the void left by his late wife. Stifling a tear and resolutely driving on, Eccleston gave a master class in vulnerable restrained emotion – a far cry from his earlier hilarious exclamation when fell running!

Continuing to supply an enthusiastic soundtrack, including Pulp and The Undertones, the show has finally confronted something that has been bugging us; in the opening moments each week, Joe takes a solo walk and is picked up by the brewery workers.

This week, a car stopped and the driver questioned the appropriateness of Joe being out alone. While he got short shrift from Maya, but we cannot help but think the driver’s concerns are pretty justified!

The A Word 1 4

Joe’s burgeoning relationship with Polish helper Maya is fun to watch, especially as Mum Alison is jealous of it. Maya allows lad a chance to be himself without expectation and he seems to respond well to it – much in the same way as he does with Rebecca.

Continuing to be both funny and frank, there’s plenty going on from Eddie’s thoughts on boys losing their virginity to Nicola’s deadpan attempts at humour and Paul’s relaxed moments at work, freed from family pressures.

We have passed the halfway point in Joe’s story and confess we are utterly hooked by this family of strong characters.


Aired at 9pm on Tuesday 12 April 2016 on BBC One.

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