The opening minutes of Jimmy McGovern’s drama Common are frantic, disorientating and tremendously powerful. Young JonJo (Nico Mirallegro) takes his Brother’s friends to get a pizza but instead finds himself caught up in a planned attempt to kill an enemy, unwittingly he becomes an accessory to a crime he had no idea was ever going to take place…
Every second of McGovern’s film is built to showcase a law which is unequivocally wrong. White walls and a white coffin represent the innocence of a young boy’s life taken away before his time and yet, Plan B’s Ill Manors plays in a car; an anthem about a dissociated youth and how the media misrepresents them. Everything is designed with a clear purpose in mind; to make you consider all the viewpoints involved in a tragedy like this. Perhaps the murdered boy isn’t the only victim.
The film is about Joint Enterprise , a law which is intended to ensure that the police need not prove which member of a group of individuals actually killed someone (an undoubtedly tricky process) but can allow for all involved to be punished for the crime. The Writer Jimmy McGovern – renowned for his hard hitting drama Hillsborough - told me that the issues being dealt with here are incredibly important but have barely seen any sort of coverage by the national media. “The camera can show you what really happens, make you think about the details you can ignore in a news story”.
He is right, the drama really hits home in the details, a mother’s heart wrenching grief and the naivety of one of JonJo’s friends who says that he has “nothing to worry about”. You want to feel assured with the knowledge that this is indeed the case but quickly it becomes clear that it simply isnt. JonJo is Guilty by association and the slow realisation of how destitute his prospects are is truly heartrending.
The approach to the duality of a crime and its different victims is a stroke of genius. Seeing the mother of a killed son grieving is almost standard fare (even if it is delivered with pure unalduterated pain by an excellent actress) but seeing the mother of an innocent son becoming ever more frustrated and angry at a system which seems bent on delivering justice for a crime without actually finding the criminal is simply spell binding.
Common may well be somewhat skewed towards portraying the police as the bad guys but it’s undeniably well constructed and written. Character and Emotion is always at the forefront of the drama, driving the story on even when wrangling with complex legal issues. The writing is – unsurprisingly – terriffic and the acting is layered and engaging. But what’s most fascinating about the film is that you feel compelled to act; to do something about Joint Enterprise. When drama can have a genuine impact on your life you know you’ve seen something far from common.
Common is on BBC1 at 9pm on the 6th of July and Will be available on Iplayer afterwards. Video Interview by Bracken Stockley and Harry Parkhill for The Justice Gap