The a Word is a warm, sometimes stressful family drama series set in England’s lush Lake District, with an excellent cast, sharp dialogue, British humor and honest interpersonal situations. Checks all the boxes, really, and more.
It starts out with a little boy wearing big headphones and holding a pinwheel aloft, walking by himself down the middle of a road between two big hills. A van headed toward him pulls up and the driver gets out. Then the little boy, whom we learn is called Joe (Max Vento), gets in the van with two men. A little weird, but OK. The men drop Joe at home and it turns out this is a morning routine — his 30-something parents, Alison (Morven Christie) and Paul Hughes (Lee Ingleby), greet him ahead of his birthday party for turning 5 years old.
During the party, it becomes clear Joe has trouble communicating with the other kids and with adults, except through the music he loves and shares with his dad. The first person brave enough to state a concern about Joe to his parents is the physician wife of Alison’s brother: they’ve moved back to town to repair their marriage after she had an affair, so her opinion is not exactly welcome. And thus various family stress lines start to be revealed while Joe is set on a path to being diagnosed with autism and Alison and Paul — and their 16-year-old daughter, Rebecca (Molly Wright) — move through stages of recognition and action for Joe while managing issues like, for example, Paul’s challenging project of building a gastropub and Rebecca’s feeling neglected.
Turns out there are many communication issues all these family members face, including the patriarch, Alison’s 50-something widower dad, played by Christopher Eccleston. Great performances all around, well-rounded storylines and six very satisfying episodes rate this import a solid A.