Originally having aired in 2019 on Channel 4, The Virtues is a show out of the UK that is coming to North America for the first time on April 2nd. Airing exclusively on First Look Media’s new streaming service Topic, the show is written & directed by Shane Meadows. The Virtues shows the harrowing tale of Joseph, a man who falls into despair after his nine-year-old son moves away to Australia—a traumatic event that forces Joseph to confront the ghosts of his past.
Joseph is played expertly by Stephen Graham. His performance is incredible, one that you will want everyone you know to also be able to witness for themselves. It’s a fantastically layered and nuanced portrayal of a character in such a deep and painful place. It’s hard to not see how Stephen Graham’s performance could overshadow the rest of the cast. Because of that, I think it’s important for me to emphasize the other completely breathtaking performance that isn’t focused on enough: Niamh Algar as Dinah. She is utterly fantastic, and truly gives Stephen Graham a run for his money. Many times I found myself more engrossed in her side of the story than I was with the lead character. Now just to be clear, those two aren’t the only good performances in the show. As a matter of fact, there isn’t any weak point to be found in any of the acting throughout.
However, when it comes to weak points, the show does have them. The show isn’t paced or structured perfectly—far from it. The first episode or two are extremely slow paced, and at least in my case, I wasn’t very engrossed in the story unfolding. In fact it wasn’t until the third episode and onward that I started to actually see the tale that Shane Meadows has set out to tell. By the last episode, I was fully onboard. In fact, the last hour is where the show truly excels. It’s a shame that it took so long for it to get to that point, but then again one could argue that the show needed to to be able to build up to that point in the way it did. It’s not a long show either, coming in at only five episodes (six really, considering the additional length of the last installment).
It’s certainly not all bad. The show has such a raw and nuanced energy to it. It feels natural. It feels real. Which makes everything displayed within all the more haunting, given how hard the subject matter can be. The subject matter is a key reason why the show works. It’s important, and it’s told with respect and care. It’s a truly harrowing and traumatic human experience, one that definitely causes you to stop and think.
In the end, I would certainly recommend watching The Virtues. It’s a solid, if sometimes uneven, tale that touches on things that don’t often get the spotlight. It’s not an easy watch, and for some can really cut deep. But some of the best stories out there are the ones that make that deep emotional connection–ones that aren’t afraid to confront the dark corners of the world. The Virtues does just that.
You can catch The Virtues when it makes its US debut exclusively on the streaming service Topic on April 2nd.