The Virtues: Miniseries (2019)


Miniseries
The Virtues

Critics Consensus

Stephen Graham gives a masterful performance in Shane Meadows' deeply personal depiction of trauma, gifting viewers with a raw account of self-destruction and a hopeful promise of renewal.

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Critic Ratings: 35

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User Ratings: 2

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Episodes

Air date: May 15, 2019

Joseph, a painter-decorator and recovering alcoholic in England, falls into despair when his 9-year-old son Shea leaves for Australia with his ex Debbie. Haunted by his past, he decides to head to Ireland to confront his demons.

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Air date: May 22, 2019

After a long journey Joseph arrives in Ballybraigh, Ireland, where he has an emotional reunion with an important person from his childhood and is introduced to a new family.

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Air date: May 29, 2019

Joseph revisits a place he has fractured memories of as he come to terms with his past; There's a spark between Joseph and Dinah; Dinah is inspired to address her own painful memories.

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Air date: Jun 5, 2019

Joseph and Dinah finally find the answers they've been searching for and must each decide whether to seek their own justice or forgive.

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The Virtues: Miniseries Photos

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News & Interviews for The Virtues: Miniseries

Critic Reviews for The Virtues: Miniseries

Audience Reviews for The Virtues: Miniseries

  • Nov 06, 2021
    I've never left a review for a TV drama but I've just watched the first episode with the scene of the family around the dinner table and it was phenomenal. The acting and script were spot on and is the best I've ever seen, so I know the rest is going to be very well written and directed. What makes it so real is the attention to detail and 'normal' conversations which are often missed from UK TV dramas and more present in foreign dramas. This was refreshing to see.
  • Oct 07, 2021
    Starts slow, but really picks up, with the last 20 minutes a masterclass in how to build tension with simple parallel editing; be warned though, it's not pleasant viewing The Virtues tells the story of Joe (Stephen Graham), a recovering alcoholic working as painter and decorator in Liverpool. With his ex-girlfriend, their son, and her new partner heading to Australia to start a new life, although they have promised Joe he's welcome to visit, he's having a hard time coping. After getting drunk, he takes a ferry to Belfast, arriving at the home of his sister Anna (Helen Behan), who thought him dead for the last thirty years. Written by Shane Meadows and Jack Thorne, and directed by Meadows, The Virtues is loosely inspired by an incident from Meadows's own childhood. Aesthetically, the show is impressive without being showy. Filmed mainly in the style of cinéma vérité, Meadows does allow himself a couple of flourishes. For example, he shoots Joe's drunken quest for a kebab in the first episode using a fish-eye lens attached to Graham's chest to create the sense of a distorted world. Another good example is that throughout the first two episodes, Meadows intercuts what seem to be old home movies shot on VHS, before revealing in the third episode that we're actually seeing something quite different. Structurally, the show is quite unusual. The first episode features next to no plot, serving only to introduce us to Joe. The second doesn't feature a huge amount either, instead focusing on introducing Anna, her husband Michael (Frank Laverty), his troubled sister Dinah (Niamh Algar), and one of his employees, Craigy (a heart-breaking Mark O'Halloran). It's only in the third episode that a recognisable plot with forward-momentum starts to emerge. This allows Meadows to focus on conveying Joe's repressed pain without the need to worry about narrative beats. However, the pièce de résistance from an aesthetic point of view is the last 20 minutes of the final episode, which is a masterclass in how to create tension with very simple parallel editing. Thanks to the time he has taken to set up the characters, this final sequence is insanely powerful, nullifying any perceived drag in the first two episodes. Sure, the change in pace could be argued to veer into thriller territory (there's even a race-against-the-clock vibe), whilst the parallel editing could be seen as a concession to artifice, but the transition from the documentarian to this more obviously directorially manipulated section is so organic as for the whole thing to work beautifully. Thematically, the opening scenes of the first episode establish Joe as weary and exhausted as he slumps in a van returning home from work. We don't know anything about him yet, but it's immediately apparent that all is not right with his character, that there's a dead weight. Indeed, emotional weight is one of the show's main themes; not just Joe's but so too Anna's, Dinah's, and Craigy's - all are haunted in one way or another, all are seeking redemption. Joe doesn't know why he is so mentally scarred, he just knows that he is, that he is corroding from the inside, and that pain is about the only thing he feels anymore (except when drunk). Of course, the acting is immense throughout. Graham is all repressed pain and stiff upper lip; Algar is the opposite, wearing everything on her shelve and prone to violent outbursts; Behan (a part-time nurse) is all guilt and remorse; and O'Halloran's soft-spoken Craigy is pain personified, looking for someone, anyone, to help him lighten the burden of living. A scene when Joe and Anna get reacquainted is especially brilliant, with its false starts, overlapping sentences, phrasal repetitions, and thematic circling; the kind of things you often find in emotionally traumatic real-life conversations, but rarely see done well on screen. A simple scene shot in a master and two close-ups, the nearly nine-minute sequence is as awkward as it is heart-breaking. Liam Carney also gives a terrific performance as Damon, a pivotal one-scene role, deeply pathetic but exuding menace and unrepentant sadism, as does Aisling Glenholmes as Apphia, Michael and Dinah's mother, all prime, moralistic, condescending religiosity; the worst type of Irish Catholic. Both are loathsome, but both are portrayed brilliantly. The Virtues is an exceptional piece of work by an exceptional filmmaker. Undeniably bleak, it will undoubtedly be too much for some. However, this is not misery porn, not even close. In Meadows, misery is never gratuitous, because he never loses sight of a sense of catharsis, which is so vital for work of this nature. It starts exceptionally slowly, with little plot in either of the first two episodes, but the astonishing central performances carry it, and it reaches a crescendo of unprecedented power in its final episode. Disturbing, harrowing, bleak, but extremely impressive.

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