Ian Wright: Home Truths

Photograph: BBC
Rating 7.8
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 1 x 60 mins

We’re used to seeing everyone’s favourite former Arsenal striker Ian Wright – or Wrighty, as he’s more commonly called – cheerfully chatting away on a BBC sofa with fellow football fanatics. But in this moving and profound documentary, we learn of the difficult childhood that preceded his sporting success.

Home Truths sees Wright discuss his troubled childhood growing up in a home with an abusive and violent stepfather. Driven by the shocking statistics on the increase of domestic violence against women during the pandemic – 1.6 million women in England and Wales reported domestic violence, with 90% of these cases involving children – Wright is reflecting on his past and the impact it has had on his life.

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He travels back to the house in Brockley, southeast London, where he lived with his brother Maurice, and his mother and stepfather. He talks of how Maurice would cover his ears to try and drown out the sound of his mum being beaten, and how his stepfather took pleasure in removing moments of pleasure from their lives – Wright describes how his stepfather would force him, then aged nine, to stand facing the wall when his favourite show, Match of the Day, was on the TV. Reflecting on events such as this, the film makes sure to emphasise the impact of emotional abuse which can be as traumatic as physical violence. And unfortunately, these both came from his mother too, with Wright describing how she would beat him and tell him she hated him, and say “I wish I’d terminated you.”

The impact this had on him was seen by football fans across the nation – Wrighty became known for being a brilliantly talented, but sometimes hot-blooded striker, his anger visible on the pitch, a sign of the abuse cycle continuing. However, luckily, he was able to break free from this and become the kind and likeable TV pundit we now know and love, and in the film he meets abusers who talk about their own troubles with controlling anger and unlearning toxic behaviours.

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This is a complex and emotional film, highlighting how detrimental abuse can be on people’s lives, and how it is possible to break free and heal – like lovely Ian Wright, who is now happily married with two children, raising them in a home he says he wishes he’d had himself. You’ll be forgiven for shedding a tear.

Unsurprisingly, this doc has been met with a huge amount of praise. In The Times Joe Clay gives it four stars, and says “It was obviously a very difficult film for Wright to make… there was still something childlike and vulnerable about Wright. You wanted to give him a big hug.” And he went through the pain of making the film to help others, too – Anita Singh in The Telegraph says “when Wright said he was also making this programme in an effort  to help the million children in the  UK living with domestic abuse, you believed him.” She calls this a “a powerful and profoundly moving hour of television.” The Independent’s Sean O’Grady thinks it’s a “study in bravery both of those who have been through the ordeal – including Wright himself – and of the abusers who have faced up to what they were doing to their families and themselves.”

First shown May 2021. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here.

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