This is a spoiler-free review of National Treasure
Length: 47-48 mins
Binge time: 3 hrs 19 mins
National Treasure – no, not the treasure hunt with Nicolas Cage. This show doesn’t have a literal treasure, but a person. Jack Thorne (Skins & Shameless) is the writer of this four-part miniseries inspired by Operation Yewtree, a police investigation into sexual abuse allegations against Jimmy Saville and other television personalities. The show first released on Channel 4 in the UK but has been picked up by Hulu in the US, and acquired by other TV broadcasters abroad including TVNZ in New Zealand.
National Treasure deals with some very delicate subject matter; rape and sexual abuse. So if you’re at all sensitive to these you’d probably want to stay well clear. Robbie Coltrane (yes, Hagrid!) is Paul Finchley, a fictional well-beloved British television personality, who is accused of raping a 15-year-old in 1993. And then more women come forward. These allegations are from when Robbie was at his most famous which makes the show very current with figures such as Bill Cosby and Woody Allen being accused of sexual assault.
The series follows Robbie and his family; Marie (Julie Walters who played Molly Weasley – another Harry Potter connection!), his wife, and Dee (Andrea Riseborough), his daughter. The victims aren’t so much of a focus which is a shame. They get limited screen time in the fourth episode where in the court room where they are eviscerated by the defence.
Although it’s not the show’s intent, I would have liked to seen more of these women’s perspectives. As in present day 2017 their perspectives are still hardly seen and they are lost behind the big name celebrities.
Robbie’s family bounces back and forth between sides, believing him, then doubting and wanting to believe. It’s a whirlpool of emotions. There is the occasional flashback, but without showing the crimes themselves still leaves a little to interpretation. But by the end of it all we have a fair understanding of what went down.
The show is very slow and meditative. Shots often linger on the characters’ faces, long enough to make you feel uncomfortable. Even in only four episodes it felt like a slog to get through. As well as the hard going subject matter the show tended to dwell on the same things. Overall, National Treasure is an exploration of a family and its relationships, and how these intertwined lives can be strained because of one person’s actions.
Women are still maligned in a society of rape culture where rape is still seen as a stranger lurking in the shadows, when it is mostly committed by men you know. As we see time and time again, if you’re famous you get a pass, especially when you’re a white man. Although National Treasure doesn’t focus on the victims, at least it doesn’t try to put you in Robbie’s shoes, choosing to instead focus on his family and how they cope.
Verdict: Slow-paced and laser-eyed in its focus, National Treasure spends a lot of time repeating itself in its only four episodes.