Dive Takes An Optimistic Plunge

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With the 2012 Olympics creeping up, expect athletics-pegged drama to become something of a trend in the next two years. First in line there's this two-parter, called Dive, about 15-year-old diving champ, Lindsay (Aisling Loftus). Every day, she wakes at 6.30, lets her dad massage the aching knots out of her calves and hits the pool for hours of pre-school practice. One morning after training--our first as her audience--she asks her dad why the back of his car is loaded with boxes. He tells her that he's leaving home.

At home she finds that her mum's new boyfriend, Gary, has already moved in. Upset gives way to fury and Lindsay's dormant rebellious side punches through. That night, she puts on make-up and a cute outfit and heads out. It's a rash decision that'll lead to a more damaging one. You'll probably guess what in the scene where Lindsay sits in a sex education class and distractedly slides a condom onto an imitation member.

Most of the time, Dive is a confident, grimy and uncomfortably jagged portrayal of two adolescents' expectations and decision-making. Also swilling in the kitchen sink is Robert (Skins' Jack O’Connell), the young lad who manoeuvres himself into Lindsay’s life and, inelegantly and unprotected, takes her virginity up against a tree. Lindsay’s whirling world gets an extra swizzle when Robert tells her that he doesn’t do girlfriends. But he can’t stay away for long because, in this flat northern town by the sea where nothing much happens, Lindsay is beautiful and beguilingly ambitious. So the pair fumble around in a relationship with neither of them entirely sure where they stand. Next, she discovers she’s pregnant and everything changes again.

In the second part, told from Robert’s perspective, we learn his moderately miserable back-story. He lives with his dad (his mum left) who decides that Lindsay’s a snob because she doesn’t drink tea. When it finally takes place, the my-girlfriend-is-pregnant talk does not go well.

But, disappointingly, Dive dusts off the real life grime that made it so compelling when it started out and proposes that Lindsay might be able to jump into adult life prematurely and have it all: a devoted boyfriend, a baby and a diving career. This candied resolution is hard to swallow. Perhaps it’s supposed to be empowering but it also dismisses the teens’ struggle as irrelevant--easily swept away by love, hope and talent. Were the producers of The X Factor brought in as consultants on this last part? At first Dive is a regulation tale of teens in freefall. It’s brilliantly paced and economically scripted. But writer and filmmaker Dominic Savage clearly developed an enormous crush on his creations and couldn’t bear to let them drown.

Dive debuts on Thursday (July 8) at 9pm on BBC2 and BBC HD. It concludes the following night at the same time.

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