“Common” Is A Stark British Drama That Addresses Questions Of Guilt And Innocence

May 27, 2016 — Common is a serious and intelligent drama with a point of view and an agenda. It was produced and presented by the BBC.

The title refers to the British “Common Purpose Law.” It held everyone involved in a criminal activity liable for all of the results of that activity. For example, if only one person involved in a crime did something that resulted in someone’s murder, everyone associated with the original crime, even if they had no intention of causing that death, would be liable for it and could be charged with murder.

The plot of the film Common is based on the real life story of 16-year old Jordan Cunliffe, who received a 12 year jail sentence for an attack on a man named Garry Newlove. Several other boys were involved in the attack. Cunliffe, who was there with the others, did not actively take part. Because of the Common Purpose doctrine, he was considered guilty and convicted.

In the movie, Johnjo O’Shea, a 17-year old boy,  agrees to drive a group of his older brother’s friends to a pizza restaurant. He is unaware that one of the boys in the car intends to confront someone in the pizza place. During the confrontation, a bystander is stabbed and killed.

Under Common Purpose (also known as common design, joint enterprise, or joint criminal enterprise), Johnjo is accused and tried for murder with the other boys. 

The crime creates difficulties for the community, which finds itself split over the question of guilt. 

In February 2016, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council jointly ruled that the law was wrong, and had been incorrectly interpreted. The law in England was nullified.

The cast includes Nico Mirallegro as Johnjo and Michael Gambon as the Judge. Also appearing are Michelle FairleySusan Lynch, Daniel Mays, Jodhi May, Andrew Tiernan and Robert Pugh.

The Daily Telegraph called Common  “profoundly engaging.” They praised Nico Mirallegro forgiving a fine performance of coiled vulnerability.” The Guardian, stated that the knockout performance belongs to Susan Lynch, who plays the victim’s mother.”

Watch Common here.

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