Life

TV review: New drama focuses on how the rich use money to get away with crime

Dark Money is about a child actor, who is abused by a Hollywood producer while filming his first blockbuster movie. Picture by Des Willie/ BBC

Dark Money, Monday, BBC One at 9pm

WITH echoes of scandals involving Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey and Jimmy Savile, this new drama explores a situation that regretfully we have grown painfully familiar with in recent times.

Dark Money is about child actor, Isaac Mensah, who is abused by a Hollywood producer while away, alone, filming his first blockbuster movie. It focuses on how high-profile rich people have been able to pay off victims so they can get away with their crimes.

Written by award-winning writer Levi David Addai, who wrote Damilola, Our Loved Boy, the series begins with kids playing in a swimming pool at the luxury home of the Mensahs.

It would appear the family have money or success.

But as the opening scene progresses, the father Emmanuel, known as Manny, can be seen slicing his own hand with a knife as he looks at a photograph of his son with an older man.

Alarms bells are already ringing in my head.

Rewind a year and it becomes clear both the family's money and success have come at a cost.

They are normal, working-class people who live on a council estate in north London. They're seen in joyous form as they prepare to welcome Isaac home from Hollywood where he has been filming a major science-fiction film.

Manny eagerly awaits his arrival in the airport with a hand-made poster, while his mum Sam is at home putting the final touches to her home-made cupcakes.

When Isaac appears through the terminal doors with his chaperone, he's teary, emotional and reluctant to discuss his adventures on the film set.

"I just wish you were there with me," he tells his father.

Amid the celebrations at home, Isaac breaks down and those happy, joyful moments are destroyed when they discover why he is so unhappy - he has been molested by the film’s director Jotham Starr.

In uncomfortable scenes, he shows his parents his mobile phone recording of what happened, his phone pointing to the ceiling, but the sound of a sexual assault is clearly audible.

The family's world is shattered.

Armed with the evidence, they consult a solicitor, but are given little hope of justice - they're told that because the offence was committed in the US, they would have to pursue their case there.

More telling perhaps, is the solicitor's assertion that the "aim of the defence team will be to make Isaac feel like he is on trial, not the producer".

After making Isaac's chaperone aware of the situation, in an emotional scene where her guilt for not being there for Isaac is clear, they meet with Jotham's legal team.

The damning evidence is shown and it's not long before the lawyers place a $3 million pay off on the table.

Will Sam and Manny take the money and be silenced for good? Can they really start a new life and let the horrors experienced by Isaac be forgotten?

Or do they not want justice for their son?

By the end of the episode, it's back to the lavish house - an obvious sign they took the money.

But what is telling is that Sam is sitting alone in a bedroom, Isaac beside the pool caught up in his thoughts and Manny is on the veranda clutching his wound.

The rest of the series will focus on the family living with their decision to take the hush money.

The drama speaks clearly about the abuse of children at the hands of the powerful, it looks at it from a different perspective, from those who don't go through the justice system.

But what it clearly demonstrates is that even today the uneven the balance of power between abuser and abused is still there, and probably always will be if money has anything to do with it.

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