|Worth seeing:||as a taut and unconventional courtroom drama that subverts expectations and has potent messages for social justice|
|Featuring:||Samuel Adewunmi, Sophie Wilde, Bukky Bakray, Michael Gould, Nicholas Khan, Roger Jean Nsengiyumva, Tuwaine Barrett, Yetunde Oduwole|
|Key crew:||Sarmad Masud, Jules Hussey, Rienkje Attoh, Imran Mahmood, Tom Edge|
|Channel:||BBC iPlayer, BBC1|
|Broadcast date:||5th December 2021|
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Our hero (Samuel Adewunmi) is a south London car salesman, who’s found himself in a bit of bother.
He’s on trial for the murder of local drug dealer Jamil (Roger Jean Nsengiyumva), and the prosecution has just presented a compelling case against him to the jury.
Having been advised not to give evidence himself and unhappy with how the trial is going, he fires his legal team and decides to represent himself for the defence closing statement.
To the frustration of the judge, rather than summing up the evidence already presented on his behalf, he delivers an entirely different account of the events leading up to the shooting – unconventionally introducing new evidence as he goes.
He explains how none of this would have happened, had he not met the woman of his dreams, Kyra (Sophie Wilde) and had she not inexplicably disappeared one day.
He reveals how seeking Jamil’s help in finding Kyra drew him into a criminal underworld completely unknown to him.
He goes on to outline how his sister Bless (Bukky Bakray) and best friend Curt (Tuwaine Barrett) helped him to try to undo the mess he became increasingly immersed him.
But most of all, he insisted that while he did things he wasn’t proud of, for reasons he believed were admirable, murder was not one of them.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Courtroom dramas are ten a penny; it’s less than two months since the BBC brought us Showtrial, but the two series couldn’t be more different.
Showtrial took until episode four out of five to get to the eponymous trial; You Don’t Know Me opens in the courtroom and stays there for all four episodes.
Showtrial gives more time to the police investigation and the cross-examination of witnesses; You Don’t Know Me is all about hearing from the defendant – and only the defendant.
And most significantly, the protagonist of Showtrial is an anti-social toff, who probably deserves to spend some time behind bars, whether she’s guilty of murder or not, whereas the suspect in this show is so empathetic, you want him to get off and think he probably shouldn’t go to jail, even if he IS guilty of murder. By his own admission, he’s done plenty to warrant a jail term, even if not a life term.
But then – can we even trust his account?
The structure of the show is unconventional, with a car salesman trying to explain to a judge and jury how he got drawn into this mess, with the help of flashbacks and a handful of directorial flourishes which add to the freshness.
The defendant’s account of events is constantly compelling, as it changes with each plot twist, but when a point comes that makes you question its veracity, the puzzle becomes all the more engrossing as you question your support for him.
A largely unknown cast – unusual for a high-profile BBC drama – grounds it in reality, making it feel all the more authentic.
As well as being a taut drama, it also has interesting – perhaps worrying – things to say about how honourable people can be drawn inexorably into the underworld in their efforts to do good and help those they love – how one bad decision can snowball – and how evidence can be twisted – with malice or otherwise – to present a completely false narrative.