BBC Three’s Overshadowed is the perfect take on anorexia in the age of social media

It’s been a little over a year and a half since BBC Three moved online, and in that time, it’s reached higher and higher levels of acclaim. Much of its programming though has still been fairly traditional – now, they’ve taken it a step further with a programme that works best online.

Today saw the release of ‘Overshadowed’, a series made of eight 10-minute instalments; it’s structured as a series of vlogs, with direct address to camera, and follows the story of Imogene as she documents her life and struggles with anorexia. There’s something particularly effective about this central conceit, positioning the series almost as a monologue; the entire drama is built around and grows from Imogene, placing her right at the centre of the story. In doing so, ‘Overshadowed’ grants its protagonist an essential level of interiority, immediately allowing the audience an intimate understanding of the character. More than that, though, there’s a level of respect too; at no point is Imogene othered or condemned, as can happen when friends or relatives are used as point of view character. It all adds up to a sensitive and compassionate account of anorexia, one that’s well worth watching.

Naturally, it’s worth highlighting the performance of series lead Michelle Fox, who plays Imogene. It’s powerful and nuanced, with a strong emotional core – the series manages to be quite so affecting because of the strength of Fox’s performance. Even as Imogene becomes increasingly turbulent and hysterical, Fox keeps the audience’s sympathy; her moments of self-realisation, and later of self-actualisation, are deeply and painfully poignant. It’s also worth mentioning the impressive makeup work that allows Imogene to undergo a subtle transformation across the course of the series, gradually looking sicker and sicker; juxtaposed with her healthy appearance in the title sequence, there’s something striking about how Imogene grows thinner with each passing scene.

The ending of the series is particularly clever. Across the course of ‘Overshadowed’ Imogene battles with a personification of anorexia; a shadowy figure called Anne, the embodiment of her darker impulses and a bracing portrayal of just how overpowering intrusive thoughts can be. As ‘Overshadowed’ comes to an end, and Imogene commits fully to her recovery, there’s one final glimpse of Anne – a final acknowledgement of how the struggle can, and will, continue. Relapse is possible, and it’s not necessarily going to be easy.

But then, that’s not the very end, as ‘Overshadowed’ continues with a few simple sentences from series creator Eva O’Connor:

I struggled with anorexia for many years. It was one of the darkest times of my life.

I am now fully recovered. I believe recovery is possible for everyone.

A note of reassurance; it’s worth mentioning that Eva O’Connor also plays Anne, the embodiment of Imogene’s dark thoughts. In light of that, then, you can perhaps read that last glimpse of Anne, standing behind Imogene, as more than just a reminder that the struggle can continue – as a way to emphasise that the struggle can be put behind you, and that recovery is possible for everyone.

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