Written by Hannah Dunleavy


Review: National Treasure

The verdict is in and, after starting the series with some serious concerns, Hannah Dunleavy talks best/worst scenarios and how, here, they turned out to be the same thing.

L-R Dee (Andrea Riseborough), Paul (Robbie Coltrane) and Marie (Julie Walters)

Dee (Andrea Riseborough), Paul (Robbie Coltrane) and Marie (Julie Walters). All photos courtesy of Channel 4.

Nobody likes being told they don’t respect women. Even the people that don’t. Quite often because they actually think they do respect women and they can’t understand what you’re going on about.

Take the furore over Donald Trump’s “pussy-grabbing” tapes, which prompted all manner of condemnations of his sexism, many of which were completely sexist themselves. Ted Cruz, in an attempt to prove that he really does respect women (if you ignore his stance on abortion, o-b-v-i-o-u-s-l-y) tweeted: “Every wife, mother, daughter — every person — deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.” Which he believes means he is definitely not a massive sexist.

Except look at all those words he’s used when he could have used one. WOMEN. Reducing us to adjuncts to someone else – someone’s wife, mother, daughter – he’s basically saying that we don’t deserve respect because we are individuals, rather that hurting us is bad because it pains someone else. And that’s just the start of what’s wrong with that tweet.

National Treasure ended in the worst way possible, the best way possible and the only way possible.”

I mention this not because I can’t stop talking about the US election – although, to be fair, I can’t – but because you might not see anything wrong in Cruz’s tweet. And you might have come away with a very different idea about the outcome of National Treasure. Or, indeed, about what that outcome even was.

And as such, I applaud it – for starting a real conversation about a subject which is much talked about but little understood, despite affecting a huge number of people at some point in their life. A conversation that is so often thwarted by the fact that most sexists don’t realise they’re sexist that I had serious concerns about it starting it at all.

National Treasure ended in the worst way possible, the best way possible and the only way possible. If it was hoping to tell us something about the society we live in anyway. One where “I don’t remember” is an acceptable answer if you are famous funny man but not if you are Ms Jo Public. One where a man can lie in court and justify it to himself by saying he’s protecting women – “ a wife” and “a daughter” no less – while throwing other women to the dogs. One where the truth isn’t as important as how you feel about something.

“I’m pretty confident that as I type the words ‘he did it and got away with it’ someone else on another sofa somewhere is saying, ‘Well, we didn’t actually see him do it, did we?'”

When I wrote about the opening episode a lot – no, really – of people got in touch to point out that men who rape and women who lie about rape are equally awful. And I don’t think anyone is going to argue with that. But treating those groups as “equal” often obscures the fact that these groups are nowhere near each other in size. Two out of three rapes don’t even get reported to the police.


Kate Hardie as Rebecca.

Precisely why this happens was done well here, with great work by Susan Lynch and Kate Hardie (who I’ve not seen in anything for an absolute age) as they were put through the mill by Kerry Fox for the defence. Lynch’s reaction to the verdict was enough to convince anyone of Finchley’s guilt, if you hadn’t already formed an opinion that is.

Or maybe it wasn’t. I’m pretty confident that as I type the words “he did it and got away with it” someone else on another sofa somewhere is saying, “Well, we didn’t actually see him do it, did we?”

They might well be the same people who call for the most punitive sentences against women who accuse men who are not found guilty. National Treasure set out to engage people in a debate about anonymity for rape suspects. To which, now we know the result, I might add we could all do with engaging on a debate on the fate of accusers, because I’d hope that at least some of the people responsible for some of the sexist vitriol that is out there on the subject might be given pause by the outcome here.

In many ways, I wish this had been on the BBC, as it could’ve stretched to six one-hour episodes happily. The court scenes felt a little rushed in the end. Especially given a number of really interesting ideas were raised but not given much room to breathe. (The idea of Finchley believing himself innocent, and whatever that psychology is behind Rebecca continuing contact after she was raped – something that Louis Theroux’s best-intentioned but not always successful documentary Savile also showed last week.)

The cast were pretty much uniformly excellent, including everyone I’ve already mentioned. Plus tip of the hat to Lucy Speed. It’s really easy to get overlooked in flashback roles, but she did a cracking job. Robbie Coltrane was rather magnificent as two solitary tears came down his cheeks, but the star of the show remains Andrea Riseborough, even if I’m still a little unsure of what really we were supposed to glean from or about Dee in the end.

Rape Crisis does some sterling work supporting and helping women who have suffered sexual violence. You can help them by giving them some money to carry on doing that. More information on ways to donate can be found here. Thank you. 

Read Hannah’s thoughts on the first episode here.


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Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.