After posting the review for Murdered By My Father, I realised I have never posted anything about 2014's Murdered By My Boyfriend, so this post will rectify that...
Murdered By My Boyfriend is a true story concerning a real incident of prolonged and ultimately fatal domestic abuse upon a woman from Nottingham, whose boyfriend killed her when she was just 21. The writer of the piece, Regina Moriarty, carried out extensive research and interviews with those closest to the victim who wanted the programme to go ahead as a warning to other young women out there. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
What Moriarty gives us is a deeply powerful and haunting drama which commences with the victim speaking to us from beyond the grave; "This is the end of my story. The journey here was not straightforward. It began when I fell in love." Chilling and poignant words that grip us from the off, even though at times you really want to look away from what plays out on screen.
Ashley is 17 when she meets the good looking and gentlemanly Reece at a party and the pair fall in love. Three months later, Ashley finds out she is pregnant and is pressurised by Reece into having the baby, believing his promise that he'll take care of everything and that they can be a proper family. It's while Ashley is pregnant that Reece first attacks her and slowly he begins to totally control her life. He is shown to be constantly spying on her, paranoid at her online activity, what she's wearing, who she is phoning/texting and where she is going. He even checks all her receipts and controls her finances making it clear that she 'belongs' to him.
The drama, directed by London To Brighton's Paul Andrew Williams, takes us across four years of their abusive relationship in a very matter of fact, unflinching manner. Ashley attempts to leave Reece several times during those years, with her friends begging her not to go back, but she is constantly trapped and pressurised by Reece who stalks her, demands to see their daughter and casts a long and threatening shadow across any attempt at future happiness or new relationships. It becomes clear that Ashley feels there is no way out and that her life is ruined before it has even properly begun.
Georgina Campbell stars as Ashley and was the surprise Best Actress winner at last year's TV BAFTA's off the back of her performance here, beating Keeley Hawes (Line of Duty) Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley) and Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Honourable Woman). Campbell brilliantly conveys here the beautiful, happy and intelligent young woman who is gradually AND heartbreakingly, beaten down by Reece played by Royce Pierreson who shows a similarly impressive range from charmer to monster. The violence and abuse he metes out in the programme escalates into increasingly sickening severity and the final murderous attack is a very hard watch indeed.
The programme concludes with a caption stating that the real life Reece was sentenced to life in prison for Ashley's murder; "It took four years for Ashley to die. In that time at least 229 other women in Britain were murdered as a result of domestic violence." Its a powerful, thought provoking statement to close a powerful, thought provoking programme; Murdered By My Boyfriend may have been about one woman, but its purpose is to remind us that it happens to thousands of women, women who need help.
Programmes like this one are important because they raise awareness, but it misses a trick in not raising the awareness of the cuts to services such as refuges and legal aid for victims of domestic violence and abuse that the current Tory government have made - funding has been slashed by 31%, the legal aid budget is being cut by £350 million a year leaving some victims unable to qualify for legal aid, whilst two out of six refuges for ethnic minorities such as Ashley have been forced to close as a result. A vote for Cameron and his cronies is, for me, a vote against the most disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society. It's a vote that offers a very bleak future for victims of domestic violence. It's a vote that says you are happy with women being beaten, attacked and killed with no recourse to justice or support. I can't think of a stronger argument to not vote Tory.