Review: Jimmy McGovern's drama about Anthony Walker was an elegy to a life unlived

The Black Lives Matter movement has – in the UK at least – has taken a back seat to the increasing fears of a Covid-19 second wave, but Anthony (BBC1, Monday, 9pm) was an urgent reminder that racism is an ugly scar on British society.

Written byJimmy McGovern, it looks at the life not lived by Anthony Walker, a teenage black man who was murdered in a race attack in a park in Huyton, near Liverpool.

Told in reverse, we see Anthony as a successful young man in his mid-20s, with a loving wife, a baby daughter and a close-knit network of friends and family.

This Anthony is building a career, and a life, of quiet achievement, helping old friends get their lives back on track, succeeding in the law.

Anthony Walker (Toheeb Jimoh) on the wedding day he never had

McGovern hasn’t given Anthony the life we might all daydream about – the massive lottery win, the sporting big break – he gives Anthony the life that most of us deserve. A decent home, a car that’s not too old, someone we love and who loves us.

And that’s what makes this so heartbreaking – Anthony has been denied even this ‘normal’ life, the type of life we take for granted.

You could treat this story as a sort of Sliding Doors tale, moving forward from the attack through the life that Anthony might have lived if he hadn’t taken his girlfriend to a bus stop that night.

But by spooling backwards through time, McGovern denies us the consolation of a happy ending, fooling ourselves into thinking it never really happened, because we know in this case, there isn’t a happy ever after.

Anthony’s mum Gee is a formidable women, who has used her son’s death to do immeasurable good for her community, and hopefully, this powerful film will be a fitting elegy to her son and his life not lived.

The BBC’s prestige new drama A Suitable Boy (BBC1, Sundays, 9pm) was absolutely gorgeous to look at, and full of eye-popping pinks and oranges, but the story was, in contrast, blandly magnolia.

Prodigal Son (Sky One, Tuesdays, 9pm) featured an unsually restrained turn from Michael Sheen, whose diet these days consiste solely of scenery, but this Hannibal-lite tale teetered on silly.