Punishing but essential, Anne puts a personal slant on the Hillsborough disaster
“Justice has not been done”
It’s taken me a fair while to get around to watching Anne, and then once starting it, to get through it. Aired in January 2022, its four parts played on consecutive nights and Lord knows how anyone managed it, such is the emotional potency of this deeply affecting drama and its stunning central performance by Maxine Peake.
The Anne is Anne Williams, mother of Kevin Williams, one of the 97 Liverpool football fans who lost their lives in the Hillsborough stadium disaster of 1989. And the story is of her quarter-century long battle for justice, for the recognition of what really happened that terrible day and the utterly disgraceful institutional cover-up that followed, preventing Anne and so many others from the relative succour of knowing the truth.
Written by Kevin Sampson and directed by Bruce Goodison, Anne balances an air of reportage with light dramatisation, key moments recreated as we move from the harrowing aftermath of the disaster to the Kafka-esque horror of inquests, panels and appeals. The shameless behaviour of tabloid journalists – particularly from The Sun – matched up with senior police officials closing ranks to hide their complicity and use the legal system to dodge accountability. And all mixed in is the intensely personal grief of a family mourning their son.
It is almost unwatchable at time and yet as great art compels us, watch it we must. Maxine Peake is beyond phenomenal as Anne, appropriately so for such a titanically inspirational figure, nearly destroyed by her grief but then energised by it to pursue her path so doggedly. There’s no ducking away from the impact of such tenacity though, the relationships that suffer, with loved ones and even with her other children. But we never lose sight of why she made that choice, her love for her Kev. Devastating and unmissable work.