A gripping murder case but the finale? The jury’s out…
You Don’t Know Me
BBC1, Sunday/Monday (Warning: spoilers)
Sky Atlantic, Tuesday
Two crime dramas this week, neither of which featured minimalist houses with kitchen islands or small towns with dark secrets or Christopher Eccleston in a bad wig – see Close To Me, what were they thinking? – and for that we must be grateful.
I have to say, it felt like Christmas had come early to this (cluttered, average, no built-in coffee machine) house.
First, the final two episodes of You Don’t Know Me, and that ending. (Did you feel cheated? Are you minded to march on the BBC, to demand a proper conclusion?) But it did make sense, sort of. Bear with, bear with.
Sophie Wilde and Samuel Adewunmi (above) star in You Don’t Know Me, which is different, makes you think and comes with strong performances
This was based on the novel by Imran Mahmood, otherwise a criminal barrister, and adapted by Tom Edge (Vigil) and compellingly starred Samuel Adewunmi as Hero.
He is a young man from a South London estate who is standing trial for murder, sacks the QC defending him and embarks on a marathon closing speech to prove his innocence.
Personally, I felt sorriest for the jury, who may have harboured some hope of getting home in time for A Place In The Sun. (No chance.)
Hero had been accused of murdering a drug dealer, Jamil (played with astonishing charisma and nuance by Roger Jean Nsengiyumva in the flashbacks), and the evidence is overwhelmingly against him. The murder weapon was found in his flat.
He had gun residue on his clothes. He had the victim’s blood under his fingernails. It was narratively gripping from the outset. How might he upend such seemingly conclusive evidence?
We spooled back to where it all began. That is, with Hero falling for Kyra (Sophie Wilde), whom he first sees on a bus, and then stalks with a blueberry muffin, kind of.
He next courts her with spaghetti carbonara, which would win me over, and they move in together, and it’s love. However, he wakes up one morning and she’s disappeared.
At this point Hero, who is otherwise a car salesman, takes it upon himself to become a lone vigilante. And now we are plunged headlong into a world of gun-toting pimps, vicious drug gangs and crack houses.
Much of it was, frankly, preposterous. Why weren’t the police all over that arson incident or the shoot-out on the estate? When Hero retrieves Kyra, and it’s the gang who are now searching for her, wouldn’t they first try her boyfriend’s place?
But it had enough unexpected twists and turns to keep us going even though I wondered, at various junctures, whether this might also have been called: He Doesn’t Know Her, Not Really.
Did he ever consult Kyra on what their next step might be? She’s expected to submit to his (often bad) choices? Who takes matters so wholly into their own hands like that? And endangers mother, sister and best friend in doing so?
However, I’ve awarded it four stars because the conceit is different and makes you think – can someone be morally in the right while legally in the wrong? – and the performances were all so strong.
As for the ending, I guess we are meant to be members of the jury too, so have to make up our own minds. Actually, does that work? Given Hero’s conversation with his solicitor when he’s arrested, didn’t we know rather more than the jury?
I’ve confused myself now. Shall we just keep it simple and march on the BBC?
On to Landscapers, a true-crime dramatisation that is so inventive, its inventiveness becomes key, perhaps at the expense of the actual story. This is written by Ed Sinclair and directed by Will Sharpe, who made, and was in, Flowers (wonderful).
I (Deborah Ross) never felt emotionally invested. However, Landscapers is original, and it is Olivia Colman and David Thewlis (above), and the script is both funny and sad
This also starred Olivia Colman, who can summon up a whole world of feeling just by repeating ‘no comment’. It is miraculous.
Here she co-stars with David Thewlis – there could be no better cast, in fact – as Susan and Christopher Edwards, the married couple who were convicted in 2014 of murdering her parents, burying their bodies in the back garden and concealing their deaths for 15 years while claiming their benefits.
As seen here, they’re an odd but devoted couple. She is obsessed with Hollywood movies and memorabilia. He pretends the letters they receive from Gérard Depardieu are actually from Depardieu (Susan writes them).
They are on the run initially but have to give themselves up.
From there the story is variously told via fantasy film sequences, characters stepping through sets, police investigators barging into flashbacks to ask questions, while the visuals are sumptuous throughout.
It is wonderful but also, ultimately, strangely unsatisfying.
This wants us to be sympathetic to the pair, particularly Susan, whose father had sexually abused her with her mother’s collusion. But was the murder unpremeditated, as she insists?
If you’ve watched all four episodes – they’re all available while this also plays weekly – you will wonder just how sympathetic we should be, even if the series never questions that. (More than this I cannot say.)
Plus, the stylistic quirks do become repetitive and you will be asking yourself: what can I trust? Did that happen? Perhaps that’s why I never felt emotionally invested.
However, it is original, and it is Colman and Thewlis, and the script is both funny and sad… oh, go on then. Four stars.