Everything seems to be going Nick Cameron’s (Robert Carlyle) way, especially when his relationship with Karen Walker (Juliet Aubrey) begins to blossom. But there are dark, dark clouds on the horizon. He begins to experience feelings of numbness and double vision, and shortly afterwards he receives the bombshell that he has multiple sclerosis.
In a flash his whole world changes. As his physical energy diminishes, Kevin angrily lashes out of those around him – especially Karen, who also has to make a dramatic adjustment (from girlfriend to carer). She becomes unable to reach the man she fell in love with and so faces a dilemma – should she walk out and start a new life, or stand by this shell of a man?
Go Now eschews the sentimentality often to be found in dramas which tackle illness, instead it offers something much more direct and honest. This may be partly due to the input of co-writer Jimmy McGovern (a man who has in the past contemptuously labelled other dramas dealing with similar topics ‘wheelchair plays’). But the influence of the other writer, Paul Henry Powell, shouldn’t be underestimated.
Powell, a MS sufferer, had started writing the script based directly on his own experiences. McGovern, who was running a writer’s workshop that Powell was attending, agreed to work with him to develop the story.
Although the basic synopsis makes it sound very depressing, the play is shot through with streaks of humour. But what really impresses throughout the piece are the emotional ups and downs that both Nick and Karen go through. Both Robert Carlyle and Juliet Aubrey offer outstanding performances.
Carlyle, who had already starred as the unstable killer Albie in McGovern’s Cracker serial To Be A Somebody, commands the screen. And it’s when Nick’s physical abilities decline that his performance really comes into his own, as it requires him to express a host of emotions with am increasingly limited set of visual signals.
Aubrey is no less impressive. That she turned down a big movie role (First Knight, opposite Richard Gere and Sean Connery) in order to appear in Go Now is an interesting revelation (no doubt a move that wouldn’t have pleased her agent). Her commitment to the piece is obvious to see – especially in the scene towards the end when Karen, refusing to heed Nick’s pleas to leave him, waits patiently outside in the pouring rain for him to change his mind.
Whilst Carlyle and Aubrey are central, there are also impressive contributions from James Nesbitt (Tony) and Sophie Okenedo (Paula) and Michael Winterbottom’s direction is pretty much faultless.
A co-production between the BBC and PolyGram, it received a limited theatrical distribution and would go on to pick up a number of awards (it won the Prix Europa Television Programme of the Year 1995 whilst Powell and McGovern collected the Royal Television Society’s Best Writer award in 1996).
At times bleak and uncompromising, Go Now is best summed up by this comment from Juliet Aubrey. “It’s a big love story with a huge heart, a lot of humour, a lot of passion and a lot of pain”. Twenty years on it remains a powerful work which lingers in the memory long after the credits have rolled.
Go Now is released by Simply Media on the 12th of September 2016 with an RRP of £19.99. £1.00 from the sale of each DVD will donated to the MS Society.