Dominic Savage makes brilliant films. The dialogue is always convincing, the performances he draws from his cast always beautiful. But he brings something else to the party, too. He is very forgiving of his characters: he looks into their hearts and finds mostly goodness. A Savage hero might be a failure, but he is never entirely bad. You sense, as you watch, that the writer/director genuinely loves people, that it would be impossible for him to patronise them, and that he always wants to stick some element of celebration into his films even if their subject matter is painfully sad.
In Dive (8 and 9 July, BBC2, 9pm), a pale and dedicated schoolgirl called Lindsey (Aisling Loftus) wanted to be an Olympic diver. Then she went and got herself pregnant. In some hands, we would have seen her forlornly looking at her old trophies years later, three screaming kids
at her feet. But Savage allowed her to keep her baby and to feel ambition rising inside her once again. Hmm. Now I think about it, perhaps he is sometimes too forgiving.
Anyway, I thought Dive was beautiful, and all praise to the BBC for commissioning it. In the brave new world of austerity and openness, this is exactly the kind of work it should be backing: no stars, no sun-streaked locations, no special effects. It was a story of everyday life that touched on two huge issues - our appallingly high rates of teenage pregnancy; our young men going off to fight in Afghanistan and returning home to God-knows-what - without ever being preachy or too pointedly "relevant" (as you know, relevant is one of my least favourite words).
I loved the performances of Loftus as Lindsey and Jack O'Connell as her boyfriend, Robert. By turns shifty, goonish, awkward, randy, stupid and insightful, they were extraordinarily real teenagers, and though we were invited to think them short-sighted and infuriatingly foolish - Lindsey got pregnant only minutes after a sex education class in which a tattooed teacher had cheerfully taught students how to unroll a condom over a sweetie-coloured dildo - equally, we were never allowed to dismiss their feelings, which were complicated and deep. Moreover, however stupidly they behaved, the viewer had to set their actions in context. The adults around them weren't exactly perfect. Lindsey's mother had suddenly and unexpectedly moved in a new boyfriend; Robert's brother Alex had returned from fighting the Taliban, full of frightening rage. Eddie Marsan played Robert's father, Will, and Ewen Bremner Lindsey's father, Stewart: lonely men, the pair of them, which rendered them helpless when it came to helping their bewildered children. Both actors inhabited their roles with tender conviction.
This is not to say that Dive was perfect. I hated its soundtrack, replete with relentlessly plangent strings that drove me slowly nuts. My other reservation? It was, I suppose, ideological. I understand that the morning-after pill and abortion are not the stuff of great drama. One you can get from the chemist and, at worst, it makes you feel queasy for a few hours. The other is the work of moments; you don't even need to have an anaesthetic. Both are free. Nevertheless it's infuriating the way teenagers always end up keeping their babies in television dramas. The first time Robert and Lindsey had (unprotected) sex, she said to him afterwards: "So what now?" How I longed for him to say: "We get you straight down to Boots, Lindz. You need that pill." And I kept wondering why Lindsey's sassy girlfriend didn't offer to attend the Marie Stopes clinic with her.
Only Robert's soldier brother, Alex, dared to use the A-word, and this was presented as another symptom of his post-traumatic shock, as though his having seen his comrades lose their limbs meant that he was the only person able to stomach the idea of a termination - a conflation that made me feel rather angry. "We can't have it all, can we?" said Robert, as he and Lindsey contemplated the shuttering of their youthful dreams. Well, no. No one can dive while heavily pregnant, and a teenager is going to struggle to be both a mother and a sporting superstar. But not every pregnancy has to lead to a baby, you know. Or is it still taboo to say so?