STV, Tue 26 Dec, 9pm
It may well be the season to be jolly, but that has never stopped the humbug-riddled TV schedulers from dumping misery, fear and despair upon us from a great height. So, in fine Christmas (and ITV all year round) tradition, After Thomas has got the lot. Keeley Hawes plays Nicola, the war-torn mum of a severely autistic six-year-old boy, Kyle, with Ben Miles as the jaded dad Rob who contemplates an attention-diverting fling while attempting to convince his doubting wife that sending their son 100 miles away to a special school is the best solution all round.
The Thomas in question, as I’m sure you’re wondering, is a golden retriever that they bring into the household as a focus for Kyle and as a way of having a member of the family which the parents can at least rely on. For a while, the puppy’s presence brings Kyle slowly out of his shell, but in this life, all the parents can really expect is the unexpected, and a trauma soon unsettles the calm.
A heartrending and occasionally terrifying drama (in particular the nightmarish opening ten minutes of a mother coping very badly under extreme pressure), the piece rises way above the kind of overt conscience-tugging which tends to drag down such films, thanks to a captivating performance from newcomer Andrew Byrne. But ‘ho ho ho’ it certainly is not.