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  • BBC Four really is becoming my favourite channel on UK TV, and it's things like Blue/Orange that just reinforce that perception.

    Blue/Orange works very well as an adaptation from a stage play, because it just focuses on the dialogue between three actors and whisks us into a thought-provoking story. What particularly works well in this type of story is that most of us (myself included) don't have knowledge of mental health matters. So we are generally clueless and/or we have preconceptions going into the story, which is great because preconceptions are what this story is quite often about.

    At first, I instantly found myself being swept along by the views of Dr Flaherty, the seemingly eager and idealistic doctor. His patient thinks oranges are blue, how "crazy" is that? So Flaherty easily makes sense.

    But then in comes Dr Smith, the potentially jaded old timer. He then starts to swing me around with his points of view.

    And this happens a lot throughout, constantly pulling you in one direction, then another, as you are challenged to think about your views on everything from philosophy to racism. As the story progresses, there is more and more to think about.

    The story never loses focus, and feels carefully constructed from start to finish. As it gets towards the end, there's almost a revelation as you genuinely realise we are all a product of our external stimuli, and how we are affected by others and how they affect us too -- often for their own selfish reasons. And it's done in a nicely subtle way that creeps up on you.

    In terms of direction, it is unassuming for the most part, which lends itself to the dialogue-driven drama that it is. But at times the direction almost feels different, like there were two directors, and I didn't like that inconsistent feeling at times. I also disliked the annoying "music" that they about two thirds of the way in for a bit, and briefly at the end. It felt inconsistent with the rest of the production.

    The acting was superb from all three of the actors, but in particular I have to single out Brian Cox. Inhabiting his character with so many levels, as an actor it's a strength he consistently displays.

    In summary, I don't think doctors would really talk quite like this, the story had a lot of "What is life about?" pondering that is more suited to philosophical drama than workplace talk. But it doesn't matter, as it's fantastic thought-provoking drama (and one that would probably benefit from a second watch).

    As my review said above, a lack of mental health knowledge helped to be a viewer that was swept away with the opinions presented within the story. But by the time you get to the end, you realise a lot of it isn't even about mental health, and that it's just a great story about human nature. The story isn't about right or wrong, or blue and orange—it's all about shades of grey.
  • Like antony-1, above, I saw this film on BBC4 (praise be...). Just flicking around and I caught this just after the beginning. I was immediately struck by the mix of powerful writing (I'm given to understand it was an award-winning play) and the equally powerful performances - from all three leads. I sat there, sorry that no one was there to see this amazing film with me.

    I was delighted, if not surprised, to read that this film played excellently to someone not from a mental health background, but as someone with an intense and long-term interest in the practicalities and philosophy of psychology/psychiatry, I was enthralled by this work. The two doctors bounce off each other in, what struck me as, a very ancient Greek philosophical 'dialogue' kind of way, following every line of argument you could wish to hear on the subject of mental health, especially the racial aspects.

    Each actor delivers explosively, working from a script not crafted with the faint of heart in mind! Fantastic. I would have to disagree slightly with the previous commentator, in saying that the conversations in Blue/Orange are exactly the kind of cut-and-thrust you are likely to hear between two devoted (obsessed? :)) mental health professionals. It's just one of those areas in life so basically existential that if you have a view on it, and it matters practically as it does for a psychiatrist, you will argue *very* passionately. Given, the situation is somewhat OTT, but only for satire's sake.

    I went to HMV the following day to try and buy this. Couldn't find it there and couldn't find it on Amazon (though the book is available). Will continue searching in hope.
  • There is the makings of an outstanding show here. It is at its strongest when it portrays the patient caught in the crossfire between these two feuding doctors. Where it goes wrong is in failing to solidly provide the motivation for the consultant doctor's actions. I'm sure the writer thought it best to try and make this ambiguous, but it just makes for a weaker story as the motivations begin to conflict and appear questionable. I felt like almost the entire racial angle could have been scrapped and it would have been just as interesting if not more so. Instead, it should have focused on the consultant's need for power and control over his subordinate vs. the subordinate's idealism and desire for some autonomy, all while maintaining more ambiguity about whether the patient was truly "mad". Still a good show with some great acting from all 3 leads.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This is a top drawer drama from BBC4, which begins with a white doctor attempting to treat a black guy for schizophrenia. Tensions build between the pair until the entrance of Dr Smith (Brian Cox) seems to herald a new, less ethnocentric viewpoint regarding the alleged patient's "borderline psychosis". The black guy is a born wind-up merchant, who manages to make the two white guys tie themselves up in knots, until, finally, they turn on each other.

    What this film says to me is, we in Britain think we know all there is to know about black people, ever since the colonial times and the Windrush immigration subsequent to that. In fact, we have something of an inferiority complex, and the sheer nastiness of the two doctors as they engage their victim in therapy, conveys this concept admirably.

    As incendiary BBC drama goes, it transcends most of the output on BBC1, and makes jaded Hollywood movies about race relations look like the slick exercises in empty propaganda that they are. The acting is brilliant, and the direction makes us remember that a few well placed stompings around the room can be dramatic whilst still conveying unpalatable nuances of character - ie it's not over-acting, its actors portraying the anguish that comes with facing unpalatable truths like the fact that one's whole academic approach could be founded on a lie. As a previous reviewer said, Brian Cox in particular (although given the best role) has really outdone himself.

    Blue Orange will challenge your perceptions or misconceptions of what it means to live in a multi-cultural world, and despite its psychiatric hospital setting/veneer of mental illness, it really inhabits a world that is a microcosm of our own.