You Don’t Know Me

Rating 7.2
Streamer BBC iPlayer
Seasons 1
Episodes 4 x 60 mins

Based on the novel by Imran Mahmood – or is it a true story…? (a rumour we suspect was planted by the BBC marketing team.) You Don’t Know Me is a new four-part courtroom drama where we get to be judge, jury and jailor. Yes, that sentence might have ended differently in certain states across the pond, where the challenges facing Black people in the justice system are well known. But here? Things don’t look good for the browbeaten Hero, whom we meet looking on in silence as the prosecuting barrister sums up an overwhelming roster of evidence against him in the murder of drug-dealer (and acquaintance to Hero) Jamil (a The Wire-level Roger Jean Nsengiyumva). But then he stands up, and begs leave to recount the “real story”, taking us back to the high-end South London car dealership where he worked, and assuring us / the jury, “it’s all about her”, his disappeared girlfriend Kyra (Sophie Wilde).

+ Fancy more jury service? Take your seats for Showtrial

Hero (a subtle, endearing Samuel Adewunmi), takes us through the events that led to his being charged with murder, swearing “I’m innocent! I am.” But despite that name, his record isn’t spotless, and we’ll take some persuading. Awarding four stars in the Independent, Ed Cumming reckons “It is testament to his warm, canny star performance that we keep guessing. Guilty or not, this Hero makes a very plausible case.” Over on the i, Emily Watkins is less convinced. “This first episode was working hard to teach a lesson – that pushed hard enough, even the most virtuous of us would break the law – as well as tell a story. Sometimes, the latter felt sacrificed on the altar of the former.”

+ Top-draw stories of Black lives in 1970s Britain: Steve McQueen’s Small Axe

Must felt like one of the ambivalent but nonetheless rapt jurors. Watching the show, there sometimes seemed to be more creaks in the script and direction than in Hero’s account to the court. But with the benefit of reflection, we feel caught up in the story, the winning central performance, and the vital issues pulling the various threads together. The set design is also worthy of mention. It’s certainly worth watching until the evidence is in, then you must reach for your own verdict. 

First shown December 2021

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