Miriam (Sarah Lancashire), a veteran social worker, lives by her illness-prone dog and her children. Left without much in life, this isolated, yet highly caring, women only wants to do what's best for the kids. But when a poorly made decision leads to young Kiri's (Felicia Mukasa), a black girl about to be adopted by a white family, death, Miriam, Kiri's foster family, and her birth family must all come to terms with how this happened and the social and political implications of one fateful decision.
Jack Thorne, who penned 2016's affecting and challenging National Treasure, has created yet another compelling and introspective drama about the heartbreak and mistreatment of social services. Thorne finely grapples with the sensitivity, and at times unjustness, of the foster care system, yet he pairs the heavy commentary perfectly with dark humor. The essence of Kiri extends to topics of race, trauma, loss, forgiveness, and, essentially, the bond of family.
The lifeblood of Kiri is Miriam, the stubborn, passionate, and deeply effective social worker caring for Kiri's case. Thorne has taken a character, that is rarely focused on, and highlights the grossly undervalued and underappreciated work of social workers. By making Miriam the moral compass of his program (villainizing the social service's management and the media-hungry Warner family), he reminds us that politics isn't what drives fostering - it's the children. Miriam, who always remained faithful to do what was best for her children, may not be the perfect person, but her diligence to her job and doing what was right for her children is admirable.
What drives the emotional core of Kiri is its phenomenal collection of affecting and passionate actors. The always superb Sarah Lancashire is a powerhouse as the darkly humorous, suffering, isolated Miriam. She faultlessly captures the millions of emotions flooding Miriam in a single expression, yet is still able to make you simile, which equally breaks your heart, with her persistent resilience. She is never overly sappy nor does she pry for your emotions, rather her organic strength and respect makes you deeply sympathetic towards her.
Rounding out the cast includes a harrowing performance from Lucian Msamati as a defeated yet caring father, who wants to do good by his family despite the distressing circumstances. And a personal favorite addition to the cast was Paapa Essiedu, who at first glance appears too handsome and kind to play the darkly distributed Nate, yet his unlikely physical traits actually bring deep layers to his character that otherwise would have been lost.
The four-part drama continues on Channel 4 Wednesdays at 9