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Time review: Sean Bean drama is hard to watch but worth every minute

Sean Bean and Stephen Graham star in Time (Picture: BBC)

Time is a gritty prison-based drama starring the incredible Sean Bean and Stephen Graham, and it’s going to draw you in from the beginning. It is a high-stakes representation of life in the modern British correctional system, as seen through the eyes of two very different individuals.

The three-part series from the BBC, written by Jimmy McGovern, follows new inmate Mark Cobden (Bean), a schoolteacher, and prison guard Eric McNally (Graham).

You instantly get the sense that Cobden doesn’t belong there, as he’s a nice, well-mannered man who has ended up in a cell with a group of genuinely vile and aggressive young men. Throughout the series, he is racked with guilt for his crime and is completely out of his element.

McNally is a justice-driven guard who is forced to choose between his morality and his family when one of the most dangerous inmates finds out his secret.

Graham told Metro.co.uk and other press that the hard-hitting new series is ‘difficult to watch’ — and he’s not wrong.

The show is ‘difficult to watch’ (Picture: BBC)

Cobden is incredibly unprepared for the brutal reality of incarceration, which is made especially clear during one of the first episode’s more disturbing scenes involving a boiled kettle and a packet of sugar.

It is scenes like this that are especially tough so you may find yourself looking away, or even grabbing the remote, but we encourage you to continue watching.

Each performance is incredibly powerful and, even though the programme is fictional, it is very much grounded in realism. Time is a necessary lesson on the British prison system and a masterclass in acting.

Bean and Graham work so beautifully together and really bring the story to life. You can instantly tell McGovern had them in mind as he was writing the piece.

Mark Cobden (Sean Bean) from Time

Cobden is unprepared for the reality of incarceration (Pictures: BBC)
McGovern is plagued by a secret (Picture: BBC)
Bean’s performance is powerful (Picture: BBC)

Verdict

Ultimately, Time is a story about guilt and forgiveness, punishment and repentance, and the impact that the prison system has on everyone who goes through it.

Much like McGovern’s previous offering Broken, Time is bleak and downbeat. However also like Broken, it is elevated by the central performances – particularly Bean, who gently grounds us and provides a beam of light in all that darkness.

The show also stars Siobhan Finneran, Sue Johnston, Hannah Walters, David Calder, Nadine Marshall, Michael Socha, Aneurin Barnard, Jack McMullen and James Nelson-Joyce.

Time will air weekly on BBC One from Sunday June 6 at 9pm.

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