It seems significant that two new British dramas premiering within a week of each other in the U.S. — one a movie, one a miniseries — would both be delving into the grief of losing a child. And yet, the film The Child in Time on PBS and Hulu’s National Treasure: Kiri explore that loss in completely different ways. Kiri, a new installment of what has become the National Treasure anthology, focuses largely on image and the role the media plays both in its dogged invasion of the private lives of those affected, and how it shapes the national conversation around a tragic event. The Child in Time skips over the media frenzy altogether, and though it technically takes places in the present, that choice to keep the story personal and removed from the initial event feels of a different time.
Kiri comes from Jack Thorne, (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), and explores the aftermath of the disappearance of a young black girl, Kiri (Felicia Mukasa), who is about to be adopted by a wealthy white family. The prime suspect in her abduction is her biological father Nathaniel (Paapa Essiedu), a drug addict with a history of violence, aided potentially by his father Tobi (Lucian Msamati). Ultimately, all of this is caused by the supposed negligence of a white social worker, Miriam (Sarah Lancashire) who took a risk to keep Kiri connected to her cultural heritage. The racial implications are clear, but the four-part series broaches it without really having the time to go deep enough into the discussion to make a clear statement. In some ways it’s reminiscent of the recent four-part crime series Collateral on Netflix, which also touches upon some difficult politics as its investigates a complex crime involving race and immigration, as well as the Starz miniseries The Missing, which has dealt with two different perspectives about child abduction. Yet it doesn’t quite hit the same high marks as either.
Kiri also, ambitiously, tells its story from several different points of view, starting with a focus on Miriam in the first episode, Tobi in the second, and then Kiri’s foster mother Alice (Lia Williams). The fourth hour shifts somewhat to Alice’s biological son Simon (Finn Bennett) as the case comes to a close (for viewers at least), but the trouble with all of these different perspectives is that they all, especially Miriam and Tobi, demand the attention of a full series (Lancashire and Msamati are absolutely outstanding). Cutting between their stories kills some of the series’ momentum, and further muddles the points it seems to want to make. There’s so much more to explore far beyond the outcome of the crime, but Kiri ultimately sets that aside to make room for a mystery whose final reveal is far less interesting than the exploration of emotional fallout that came before it.