Broken: 'Suffused with hope'
Jimmy McGovern's series about a Catholic priest is one of the most profoundly moving dramas I have watched in a very long time, writes Jeannie Kendall
Television, one of the most powerful media of our age, is fascinating in the uses to which we put it. For many of us, it provides the capacity to unwind after an arduous day. The genres which facilitate this vary: some enjoying a distracting fiction, others the (often emotionally engaging) equal drama of a sporting engagement, some to learn a new skill or enhance an existing one, such as cookery or gardening. Travel and home shows suggest we like to see how others live or what we might aspire to achieve (or envy?). Learning features heavily for some, whether science or current events. Then there is horror- a genre for which I don’t personally understand the appeal but many do watch. No doubt we could debate that at length.
Recently I’ve been reflecting why I watch what I do. For example, I enjoy cookery programmes but am certainly no chef. There are some things I never watch - many years ago when working as a counsellor I had a Jewish client who had been in a concentration camp. Week by week I listened to her haltingly recounting horrors which for her remained only too real. To this day I have never been able to watch Schindler’s List.
So I can’t say what drew me to the recent drama Broken. Sean Bean is an excellent actor, and Jimmy McGovern an immensely talented, though gritty, writer. At the end of the day I suspect it doesn’t matter…I may well have stumbled on it by accident.
The personal impact of it though is beyond dispute. It was one of the most profoundly moving dramas I have watched in a very long time. I won’t say too much about the plot, lest any of the few who read my ramblings still want to watch it! I can say though that it concerns a Catholic priest (played by Sean Bean) and that each of the six weeks has a separate storyline which also interweave throughout.
Ministers on television are normally either inept, extremist, creepy or corrupt. They rarely reflect ministers I know: who are ordinary, hard-working people of integrity who love God and those in their churches and do a demanding job to the best of their abilities.
The task of ministry involves an extraordinary combination of roles: a typical day often including anything from visiting dying or bereaved people, administration, dealing with staff (whether paid or voluntary), preparing services and sermons and a myriad of other tasks. Ministers, being very human, will be better at some than others but can sometimes be unrealistically expected to be able to do everything with consummate skill whilst displaying a (perhaps impossible?) level of personal holiness.
What was particularly moving about Broken was the way in which Father Michael was portrayed. He had his own vulnerability, from a painful past, but cared genuinely for those he served combined with a robust sense of social justice. Whilst described as “bleak” in one review, it was in many ways suffused with hope: in the compassionate humanity of one man seeking to be faithful to God and others amid the complexity of issues in our troubled world.
It also spoke profoundly of both the restorative power of forgiveness, expressed in communion, and the power of words to encourage the weary and wounded.
I wept in the final episode: and I am sure I am not alone. Inspiring stuff.
Jeannie Kendall is co-minister of Carshalton Beeches Baptist Church. This reflection originally appeared on her Tumblr feed and is reproduced with permission