I had to drive down to Bristol to CrimeFest on Thursday night, so I missed the final episode of Three Girls in real time. So, yes, this review is a bit late, but I felt I needed to post something about it because it affected me so much on an emotional level. I try and be as objective as I can when I review tings for this site because I take pleasure in looking at themes and structure and all that mularky. But sometimes the objectivity has to give way to pure emotional reaction, which is what Three Girls provoked.
Last night, the first episode of the three-part Three Girls kicked us all in the solar plexus and made us hover on the verge of tears. It told the story of Holly and her young teenage friends who were lured into a hideous paedophile prostitution ring, populated by men in Rochdale. At the end of the episode, Holly was given hope in the form of Maxine Peake’s sexual health worker, Sara Rowbotham, who, unlike the social services and the police, saw Holly as a human being rather than just another teen who lived a certain lifestyle.
The BBC continuity person doled out lots of warnings – sexual violence, physical violence and all the rest – before this three-part drama (stripped over three nights) started. There was no doubt – if there ever was any doubt – that this was going to be a harrowing, difficult watch. It was the story – another drama based on real-life events – of three girls who had been groomed and horrifically exploited by a paedophile gang (mostly containing, the story goes, Pakistani men, a fact that wasn’t lost during the reporting of the case by the British media when it broke in 2012). Nope, this wasn’t going to be a helter-skelter, fun procedural. It was going to be a very, very difficult watch.
This one’s going to be another tough one to watch, make no mistake. Over the past few months we’ve had two significant dramas that have brought the story of high-profile true stories to the screen (BBC’s The Moorside and ITV’s current Little Boy Blue), and now we have another: the BBC’s Three Girls, which tells the story of three of the children who were victims in the 2012 grooming and sex trafficking case in Rochdale. Now we know when it will air.
The BBC never shies away from the dramatisation of a harrowing true story (mind you, ITV doesn’t either). We know that there’s a Shannon Matthews drama (starring Sheridan Smith) on the way, and now the network has announced that filming has started on a drama that also explores a particularly shocking and awful true-life set of crime.