THE A WORD

THE A WORD 2016
The A Word is a six-part drama on BBC1 (Tuesdays at 9pm), and stars Morven Christie, Lee Ingleby, and Christopher Eccleston. Set in the Lake District, the drama focuses on a five-year-old boy who is diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum.

The first episode opens with little Joe (Max Vento) oblivious to everything around him but his music. He’s rarely parted from his headphones and has an impressive knowledge of music for one so young. He doesn't want to join in the fun and games at his birthday party, leading to his aunt and uncle suggesting he's got a communication problem. Joe's parents react badly to this, but we later learn that they have already taken steps to have Joe evaluated at the hospital. This comes after Joe's grandfather (Eccleston) wades in and takes Joe to the hospital himself. Towards the end of the episode Joe's parents are given the diagnosis they have been dreading.

The way the drama represents the different emotions and reactions to a child who is diagnosed as being autistic is done very well. His mum (Christie) is alternately upset and angry, and is incredibly protective of her son. Joe's dad (Ingleby) is in denial and tries to laugh his son's behaviour off as being, like every man I know. Joe's grandfather wants to help, but he is clearly out of his depth and he bumbles his way through, upsetting his daughter and son-in-law in the process. The parents of Joe's classmates exclude Joe – we learn he is never invited to birthday parties.

There is an interesting subplot to this drama. Joe's uncle Eddie (Greg McHugh) has moved back to the village with his wife Nicola (Vinette Robinson) under a cloud, as we learn Nicola had an affair with a colleague.

Christopher Eccleston once again is a joy to watch and a special mention must be made of the talented young actor who plays Joe, Max Vento. I believed he was autistic and my heart went out to him.

What a poignant piece of drama when Joe slapped his dad. There were many spectators and the scene played out beautifully.

The drama possibly focussed a little too much on the adults. Joe could have featured in it more, but perhaps that will come. We also didn't see much of Joe's older sister, but I am sure she will have a bigger role as the series continues.

I intend to keep watching The A Word as I believe it's going to get even better. It's definitely worth watching – it's something different and the soundtrack is excellent!

Helen Edwards
Based in Buckinghamshire. Writes novels, articles and reviews

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