A moral fable about a radical clergyman who gets more than an Our Father and three Hail Marys when he turns his back on the Catholic Church.
A large dose of Catholic guilt and a vivid memory of the political upheavals of the 70s may not be essential to enjoy the debut effort from Brit director Tom Waller, but they would certainly help. That said, there's plenty more to appreciate in the somewhat sluggish but well-crafted drama which emerges.
Based on Piers Paul Read's lauded novel, Monk Dawson is a moral fable about a radical clergyman who gets more than an Our Father and three Hail Marys when he turns his back on the Catholic Church. It's much like Jimmy McGovern's Priest if you substitute the Scouse blasphemy, incest and working class guilt for Home County profanity, Chelsea dinner parties and a public schoolboy's sense of shame.
Eddie Dawson (a splendid Ritchie) enters a Benedictine monastery where his radical views on illegitimacy and divorce cast him adrift from mainstream Catholicism. He hangs up his habit to search for moral fabric in the real world, only to find loveless sex with a socialite (an impressive Hamilton), be deceived by his childhood friend Bobby (Taylor), enter a fruitless marriage with a Lolita (Kate Steavenson-Payne) and get screwed by a tabloid editor (a cigar-chewing Martin Kemp).
With its small budget and scale, Monk Dawson will probably fit far more comfortably into a TV slot than the big screen one it is primed for. There's certainly plenty to chew on in James Magrane's script - political dogma, moral decay, organised religion - and the cast do a fine job of looking anxious and thoughtful without seeming bored by the picture postcard locations.
The only real flaw is Waller's direction, which could do with a good Heimlich manoeuvre to remove the extremely polished BBC2 drama style it chokes on. Though given that Waller is just 22, this could even be a compliment.