Friday night I watched the first three epsiodes of this new-to-TV adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’s novel, published in 2013. Last night, I watched the final episode. I was in tears for much of it. Why did I find it so moving when the book didn’t affect me in this way? I found the book hard going (very readable, but still, hard going).
It’s a good question. I think partly it was to do with the voice – how it was told. We never got Danny’s interiority, it was all from outside. But still, I had such compassion for him, for his coach, for his father and his mother. His friend Demet (a small part but so warmly and compassionately acted), his sister, his brother. For Taylor, the other swimmer at the school. All characters fantastically-rendered on the screen.
Coach Torma, especially, was so affecting, and Danny’s father too (who is a bit of an arsehole in the book, and for whom a softening – if it comes at all, I can’t remember – comes late.) In the show, the father was a wonderful depiction of a Good Man, and the usual cliched ‘flaws’ were resisted, as they were for the coach. When the coach had the boys over, for pizza and some kind of Hungarian ‘grappa’, while reading the book, I said to myself: I hope he doesn’t turn out to be a creep. How sad, that this was my thought. That older men can’t spend time with young men without my mind going there, that my thinking has been conditioned in that way. But Barracuda – the TV show – is a beautiful depiction of masculinity – the good and the bad – as well as a gorgeous, moving, heartfelt showing of strong, healthy, supportive, forgiving male relationships – between coach and swimmer, father and son. it is also a wonderful story of redemption, growth and change. I loved that the man at the special needs centre towards the end had a Scottish accent (so that people who’d read the book would know that maybe this man would become Danny’s partner and help him continue to develop). I loved the scenes between Danny and Dennis, the man who said he didn’t miss his girlfriend – who’d left him soon after his motorbike accident rendered him permanently disabled – as much as he missed his bike. I thought the whole thing was brilliantly done. I had tears, lots of them, and I’m excited to see what Christos writes next.