Moving On, series nine, episode one review: Jimmy McGovern returns with a tough but rewarding drama

Kate Anthony and Sinead Cusack - BBC
Kate Anthony and Sinead Cusack - BBC

Viewers who enjoy a dive into deep emotional waters during daytime will have rejoiced at the return of Moving On (BBC One). The stand-alone drama series created by Jimmy McGovern in 2009 has been graced over the previous eight series with powerful writing and a roll-call of brilliant actors that includes John Simm, Sheila Hancock, Lesley Sharp, Joanne Froggatt, Sharon Horgan…  the list goes on.

The ninth sees Sue Johnston star in episode two and David Morrissey and Samantha Bond in episode five, but the opener starred Sinead Cusack and Jodhi May, who also wrote the episode.

It gripped right from the start as school cleaner Pat (Cusack) walked in on a ghost from her past in the shape of a supply teacher (played by Simon Rouse, better known as DCI Jack Meadows from The Bill). It was the teacher who had sexually abused her daughter Rachel (May) as a 12-year-old, an event that had driven a wedge between mother and child which, it seemed, time could not overcome.

Rachel’s determination not to bring it back into her life forced Pat into the vortex of her own guilt. May and Cusack went head to head in heartfelt scenes, as Pat’s shame at having failed to act when it happened became clear, and Rachel’s fury rang out.

“I, the victim, have managed  to live with it, so how dare you say  you can’t.”

Jodhi May as Rachel - Credit: BBC
Jodhi May as Rachel Credit: BBC

It was a painful watch for daytime that added an extra layer of emotional complexity to an apparently straightforward case of unreported historical sex abuse. The sense of long-lasting trauma was unremitting.

As the drama played out, with Rachel telling first her husband,  then confronting her abuser in the schoolyard, and finally giving a statement to the police, there was catharsis and an acceptance of human weakness that ended in an embrace between mother and daughter. It was tough going at times but rewarding.