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Review: Baby Reindeer

10.04.24 | Blog

A Review 

It’s the honesty… no, it’s the hard honesty, of Richard Gadd’s expertly crafted, Baby Reindeer, which makes it one of the most important pieces of television in challenging the view and attitude society has towards male victims/survivors. Just to be clear, that’s male victims/survivors of crimes which unbelievably, we still formally refer to in official policies and campaigns as Violence Against Women and Girls. Even writing that down, male victims of violence against women and girls, doesn’t make it make any more sense than in its real-life application.

Whilst boys and men have been victims of sexual violence, abuse, stalking, harassment, domestic abuse, rape (well actually, male victims of rape has only been possible since 1995) forever, this is literally the first time this power dynamic has been captured in this way and especially on screen.

But the telling of this story did not begin on the screen, that happened on the stage, at the Edinburgh Fringe to be exact and it instantly captured audiences. Anyone who watches this new Netflix Series will instantly understand why it was received so well and achieved both critical acclaim and even an Olivier Award for Mr Gadd himself. Following the Fringe, a stint at the Bush Theatre and then an announcement for a West End and Off-Broadway transfer was on the cards until COVID took that off the table. If that had not of happened, would we now be sat watching this utterly phenomenal piece of television? Who knows but I for one am glad we are.

Baby Reindeer is a story of connection. A story of loneliness. A story of vulnerability that is laced with threads of dark humour. Yes, it’s funny! at times it’s really funny, and whilst that may come as a surprise to viewers especially when Netflix categorise it as Drama and it’s tagged as offbeat and Psychological, but as Richard says himself, isn’t that what life is… a comedy-drama rather than one or the other?

Donny (Gadd) is a struggling comedian attempting to jump start his career in the bright lights of London and whilst working behind the bar of a local pub, innocently helps a visibly upset ‘damsel in distress,’ Martha (Jessica Gunning), with a cup of tea on the house. But that casual encounter changes the lives of all involved whether they want to be or not!

Whilst the good Samaritan story is familiar, this is not just a story or drama – this is true, this happened, and the real-life people have the scars to prove it.

Gunning’s performance of the unstable, eccentric, chaotic Martha is simply outstanding! Her ability to leave you as the viewer uncomfortably wondering if you should be laughing, whether that is with her or at her, is genius. BAFTA look out, there is no point in adding anyone else to the category Best Actress in a Leading Role, she has won already.

Mava Mau’s performance of Terri, a transwoman who Gadd’s Donny falls for at a time when connection and intimacy is dangerous, is as captivating as she is. The relationship on display adds an important layer of Donny’s internal struggles and gives a depth to the piece that I don’t think many expected.

But it is Gadd’s performance as Donny which will have the biggest impact on the viewer and once he/she/they have processed it, the greatest impact on society. It isn’t just the rawness of the performance which at times can feel all so real (let’s not forget, Donny’s experiences are Richard’s own and he is Donny… literally); it’s Gadd’s ability to show you the viewer, the reality of male vulnerability, the truth of being seen through, and the fear of the truth, that makes this piece groundbreaking and a future cultural anchor point for others, most importantly for male survivors.

When Richard became an Ambassador for We Are Survivors, then called Survivors Manchester, he was revealing himself and parts of his trauma through his art in the award winning self-penned Monkey See Monkey Do which helped start a conversation. Now, still an active Ambassador for the charity, the reveal just got bigger, the conversation is about to get deeper, but the healing this will bring is going to be the greatest and we should all be incredibly grateful for this gift he’s giving us.

Baby Reindeer is on Netflix from 11th April 2024

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