A modern tale to eradicate a Dickensian law!
(C) LA Productions/Tony Blake
Jimmy McGovern is known for quality thought-provoking drama, and Common is no exception. The creator of Accused and The Street has an innate sense of portraying society and the moral ambiguity of the law. Couple that with Nico Mirallegro, one of Britain’s rising actors of comedy and drama and we’re set for a heavy-hitting single film that doesn’t always hit the right notes but leaves you on no doubt as to the tune.
The purpose of the drama is to highlight an outdated UK law called Joint Enterprise Law or Common Purpose – which basically means regardless of your involvement in a crime, if you were present in any capacity you will all be treated and charged for the same offence. In the case of Common, Johnjo O’Shea (Mirallegro) is our window into an everyday kid who naïvely becomes a getaway driver when his friends stab and kill Thomas Ward in a pizza shop. Despite handing himself into the police, not being in the pizza shop or holding the weapon or knowing that the gang intended to originally beat someone up, he is to be tried under a murder charge just because he was there waiting in the car.
It’s pretty shocking to realise a law that was invented hundreds of years ago at the time when hanging was still legal is being used more commonly in British courts today. The drama isn’t an easy watch it can be slow, repetitive and preachy at times but it fulfils McGovern’s aim to make the public aware. Did I enjoy it? No. It was never going to be uplifting obviously seeing that justice had little consideration for the bleakness of grief. But in terms of making a point, the episode hit the political nail on the head.
I admired the fact there was a balance to the writing, it could easily have been written purely from Johnjo’s perspective but instead we get to see the impact the murder has on the victims parents, their raw grief and their fight for justice, especially his mother played by Susan Lynch. However it was at times pushed a little too far with the relationship drama played out in the morgue and arguments over finding money to pay for the funeral.
Whatever your views on McGovern’s work and outspoken views, I think few people would argue that Joint Enterprise is fair and not just an easy excuse for the law to wrap up a case quickly. Whether it makes any difference in affecting change only time will tell. But in terms of awareness it’s at least made it visible for public debate.