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Dive - Review

Dominic Savage's Dive

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

DOMINIC Savage has long been praised for his ability to tackle serious issues (juvenile crime and homelessness among them) in a sensitive and thought-provoking manner.

His latest, Dive, which debuted on BBC2 on Thursday night (July 8, 2010), and concludes on Friday (July 9), is probably his most universally appealing work yet.

On the surface, it’s the story of two young lovers (of school age), who must tackle the pressure placed on their burgeoning relationship by an unexpected pregnancy.

But look deeper and there’s so much more… issues range from being young and coping with the pressure of expectancy to peer pressure, parenting, ambition and identity.

For one of the two young protagonists, Lindsey (Aisling Loftus), whose story unfolded in part one, these issues contributed to an extremely complex individual.

On the one hand, Lindsey is a mixed up teenager who is feeling anger and insecurity at the break up of her parents (Gina McKee and Ewan Bremner). On the other, she’s an Olympic hopeful diver, who would seem to have the world at her feet.

After hooking up with ‘Jack the lad’ Robert (Jack O’Connell), her world suddenly threatens to spiral beyond her control. A promiscuous moment, which flies in the face of Lindsey’s usual self-control and focus, leaves her pregnant and facing an impossible decision at such a young age.

For Robert, on the other hand, Lindsey’s news brings about his own set of stark choices. Does he absolve himself from responsibility and emulate his father’s youthful swagger? Or does he step up and be a man? These choices are explored during part two.

In both cases, however, the issues and themes are intelligently and sensitively explored by Savage’s honest, accurate screenplay and the quality of the central performances.

Both Loftus and O’Connell are clearly names to watch – the former delivering a performance of such skill and detailed nuance that it’s easy to forget just how young she is. O’Connell, though, is her equal, particularly during his more intimate moments when the bravado of some of his earlier work (most notably in Skins) is pushed aside for a little more complexity.

As a couple, Loftus and O’Connell are easy to root for, even though their future never really looks secure, or their actions aren’t always easy to understand or accept.

Savage, though, doesn’t sugar-coat the issue or judge his characters, allowing their stories to unfold and infusing each one with flaws that are all too human.

There’s strong support, too, from the ever reliable Eddie Marsan, as O’Connell’s disapproving dad, Gina McKee, as Loftus’ sympathetic mum, and Ewan Bremner, heartbreaking as her powerless but loving dad.

Savage also ensures, through his direction, that the story moves along at a solid pace, but gives his cast plenty of room to move and explore the issues and their characters. Admittedly, a strings-heavy score can sometimes become a little overbearing (particularly during the first episode), but his eye for detail and confidence in his performers ensures that by the time the story reaches its memorable conclusion, there may not be a dry eye in the house.

Special mention must go, too, for his depiction of Lindsey’s diving scenes, which capture the power, beauty and grace of the sport in often breathtaking fashion.

All in all, then, Dive exists as a tremendous showcase for acting talent (with Loftus and O’Connell, in particular, standing out), as well as a thought-provoking and emotionally enriching viewing experience. It really shouldn’t be missed.

Read our interview with Aisling Loftus