Writer-director-producer Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, The Trip) uses a quick-cut, snippety style that – when it works – is exhilarating. The early days of the pandemic play out at a fast pace that feels true to the way Covid-19 arrived in our lives. Few scenes linger and the leading players are caught up in a vortex of events. Through those events, you get a sense of each character as they respond to the swirling crisis.
There are, however, notable scenes when the speedy style fails, often when the action moves away from Downing Street. When a mother tries to explain their father’s death to her children, her monologue sticks out as melodramatic and underdeveloped.
But these moments are few, and in between the viewer is treated to an acting masterclass from Branagh that on its own makes the show worth a look. More widely, This England was a hugely ambitious project – to capture Britain from top to bottom in the throes of a pandemic – and what it achieves, so soon after the event, is considerable.