The BBC drama Dark Mon£y takes up the theme of sexual abuse in the Hollywood film industry.
It’s an all-too familiar tale following recent scandals surrounding Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and others which triggered the #MeToo movement.
London schoolboy Isaac Mensah (Max Fincham) has been plucked from obscurity to star in a blockbuster sci-fi movie, Valiant and Son.
The young teenager’s sudden stardom is a point of pride for his family, school friends and local community. But when Isaac returns home from filming in America, we realise all is not well.
The plot quickly unfolds to reveal that Isaac has been sexually abused by the film’s producer, Jotham Starr (John Schwab).
He reveals this to his dad Manny (Babou Ceesay) and mum Sam (Jill Halfpenny), in a harrowing scene.
The Hollywood dream has become a nightmare.
The drama exposes venal attitudes within the corporate elite at the heart of the movie industry in a powerful scene between Starr’s legal team and the Mensahs.
When Starr’s advisers are presented with a video revealing the abuse, they are less bothered by the abuse than with stopping a scandal.
Starr’s team proposes a multi-million pound payoff, but it will only be on the table for five minutes.
The opening scene of the drama shows the family living in an expensive house with a swimming pool. It then rewinds 12 months to when the abuse was revealed at their then home on a council estate. So we’re left in no doubt that the Mensahs have taken the money.
Despite their distress, it seems the inevitable choice. The Mensahs are a working class family and Manny and Sam have been warned that the legal system is stacked against them.
Their class credentials are at times clumsily reinforced—there’s a trite scene showing a late-night visit from a bailiff—but the characters are convincing and well-acted. The Mensahs are in no position to take on the powerful movie industry or turn down a life-changing sum of money.
By the end of episode two, we are witnessing the unravelling of a family. The Mensahs are in acute crisis, revealed through escalating tensions already present in this mixed-race family.
Isaac’s older sister Jess (Olive Gray) resents her brother’s success. And Manny has another son from an extra-marital affair, Tyrone, a standout performance from Tut Nyuot as a happy, feisty kid never out of trouble.
The Mensahs’ material conditions have improved but their lives are in freefall. This compelling story of the pervasive influence of sexual abuse poignantly highlights the suffering of real victims.