How well do you know your partner? Spend every day beside someone and it’s like an unintentional study of a living, breathing subject. Their smell. The curve of their face. The way they make coffee: strong, milky, right up to the rim, as if those messy extra millilitres are the urgent divide between awake and comatose. What would happen if, one day, you realised that you didn’t know them at all? That they were a stranger. That all the perceived intimacy you had shared was just scratching the surface, like the tip of a looming, destructive iceberg poking out of the water.
These thought-provoking questions are at the forefront of BBC One’s compelling new crime thriller You Don’t Know Me, adapted from Imran Mahmood’s bestselling novel of the same name and penned by The Crown and Vigil writer Tom Edge. Set in London, the four-part series follows a young man named Hero (played by Samuel Adewunmi) who is standing trial for the murder of another young man. The evidence – blood under his fingernails, firearm residue on his skin – is condemning and stacking up against him. But facing a lifetime in prison with a likely guilty verdict, he maintains his innocence. In a last-ditch attempt to sway the jury’s minds, he stands in the dock and begins to tell the remarkable story of what led him to this very moment: risking his life to save the woman he loves.
We meet Hero two years prior to the murder. He is our dependable, ambitious protagonist who works in an Aston Martin car dealership, is close to his family and lives in his own flat on an estate. By chance he meets Kyra (Sophie Wilde), reading on the bus. Taken with her, he begins to court her: dinner here, another dinner there, moving in together, meeting his family – who adore her. Rocks‘ breakout actress and BAFTA Rising Star Bukky Bakray plays Hero’s younger sister, Bless, who instantly becomes close with Kyra.
On the surface, Kyra is loving but generally reserved. We get the picture that she is a well of hidden emotion. Some of the first pages of her endless mounds of books have a cartoon ghost drawn in them, gifts from someone from a past life, about whom she remains tight-lipped. One day, a man appears at the door, talking to Kyra, and from that moment on she isn’t the same. She’s distant, her face stricken with worry. Then, in a matter of days, she goes missing without a trace.
As Hero tells his story to the jury – with his mother and a worried-looking Bless in the benches – we almost serve as another juror. We hear the story at the same time as them, make internal judgements as we go along and ask exactly the same questions. What is Kyra’s role in all this? Where is she now?
The series articulately throws up themes of class, prejudice, gang violence, criticisms of the UK judicial system and women as collateral. Author Imran has previously explained in an interview: “[Hero] is one of the thousands of young men, strangers to privilege and opportunity, who are caught in the net of the criminal justice system each year. For those young men, the court is a system designed to deal with them but not to communicate with them. Not to understand them.”
If you’re looking for a new crime drama obsession, this is it. Beautifully acted, perfectly paced and utterly bingeable, it just works. Every episode implements enough breakneck twists to keep the viewer in constant, guessing limbo so that by the time the ending hurtles onto the screen, you won’t have seen it coming. Samuel Adewunmi is a revelation and Bukky Bakray flexes her rising star chops as the headstrong guiding force for her older brother, believing fiercely in his innocence. Never underestimate the power of family.
BBC One miniseries You Don’t Know Me will air on 5th December.
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