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The Promise - episode 1 review

Claire Foy stars as Erin in The Promise

Review by Tim Carson

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out fo 5

What’s the story: Eighteen-year-old Erin goes to spend the summer in Israel with her best friend Eliza. She brings with her an old diary belonging to her seriously ill grandfather, Len, and is stunned to learn of his part in the British peace-keeping force in Palestine. Erin witnesses the complexities of life in this troubled land while Len’s story reveals disturbing truths about his time there in the 1940s.

Our verdict: Peter Kosminsky’s tightly-woven tale of modern-day Israel and 1940s Palestine packs an emotional punch pretty much from the off. It grabs your attention and doesn’t let go till the final thrilling moments of it’s all too brief 90 minutes.

It’s one of those shows that leave you wanting the next episode to begin immediately. Although this is no 24, this is much more a thought-provoking and emotional drama than a political thriller.

Weaving together the stories of Erin’s time in Israel with her grandfather’s time in Palestine, The Promise tries to unravel some of the complexities of the region. Not an easy task as for many of us our knowledge of what really goes on there is limited. It is the innocent Erin who becomes our guide for this journey as she asks the questions many of us would ask.

Played with a wonderful sense of vulnerability and rebellion by Claire Foy, Erin is intrigued not only by her grandfather’s dairy but also by what she sees around her from the rich Beverly Hills-style life of Eliza and her family to the tension and vibrancy of the West Bank.

Through Eliza’s brother Paul (Itay Tiran), a former Israeli soldier and now very much pro-Palestinian, she begins to get some insight into what’s going on in present day Israel while Len’s tale reveals what happened in the past.

As a sergeant in the British army in 1945, Len (the excellent Christian Cooke from Cemetery Junction) goes from liberating Jews from horrific concentration camps in Germany to becoming their jailer as floods of refugees flee Europe only to be locked up again while the British try to regulate the flow into Palestine.

It provokes a backlash from those they were supposedly there to help and violence erupts – a confusing complication for the soldiers and viewers alike. This is not a simple situation and Kosminsky refuses to try and simplify it for the viewer.

What the The Promise does offer is as balanced a view of the conflict as possible. And by focusing on the stories of Erin and Len, Kosminsky addresses the political through the human making it all the more real and powerful. This is grown-up drama for grown-ups and I can’t wait for next Sunday.

Watch clips of The Promise at C4