fri 14/06/2024

Landscapers, Sky Atlantic review - Olivia Colman and David Thewlis star as a pair of convicted killers | reviews, news & interviews

Landscapers, Sky Atlantic review - Olivia Colman and David Thewlis star as a pair of convicted killers

Landscapers, Sky Atlantic review - Olivia Colman and David Thewlis star as a pair of convicted killers

Is post-modern jokiness suitable for this real-life murder mystery?

In bed with Gary Cooper: Olivia Colman as Susan Edwards

In 2014, Susan and Christopher Edwards were jailed for a minimum of 25 years for the killing of Susan’s parents, William and Patricia Wycherley. They’d been shot dead in 1998, and lay buried in their garden at 2 Blenheim Close, Mansfield for 15 years.

Susan and Christopher had successfully maintained the fiction that the Wycherleys were still alive, but taking extended holidays, by writing greeting cards to relatives or keeping in touch with their GP’s surgery on their behalf. The killings might never have come to light had the Department for Work and Pensions not written to William Wycherley in 2012 to congratulate him on his forthcoming 100th birthday, asking for a meeting to discuss arranging a telegram from the Queen. It dawned on the Edwardses that the game was about to be up.

You can see why this macabre, tragic yet whimsical tale might appeal to a screenwriter, in this case Ed Sinclair, who’s also the husband of Olivia Colman. She stars as Susan Edwards, with David Thewlis as Christophe (pictured below with police), in a four-part dramatisation (on Sky Atlantic) directed by Will Sharpe. It turns the story into a faintly surreal collage of memory and fantasy, designed (presumably) to illustrate the delusional state of mind of the killers. Despite the legal outcome, shadows of doubt still linger over exactly how the Wycherleys died, with the Edwardses admitting to manslaughter rather than murder.The opening episode found the pair living in Lille in France, eking out a meagre existence in a cramped and dilapidated apartment. Christopher was putting on a cheery facade about how he was about to get himself a job, assisted by his ever-improving grasp of the French language, but when we saw him sit down in front of an interviewing panel it was clear that he could barely understand a word of what he was being asked. As for Susan, Colman plays her with that air of nervously exaggerated jollity she adopts at awards ceremonies, which happens to be just the job for her depiction of a woman with a seemingly frail grasp on reality who’s obsessed with vintage movies and Hollywood memorabilia.

In this telling, she seems to see Christopher as an embodiment of her idol Gary Cooper (the clips from High Noon must have cost the production a small fortune), and the narrative sometimes drifts off into episodes of gauzy black and white flashbacks or stagey imaginary scenes. The fourth wall is broken with reckless regularity, with characters dropping into other people’s scenes to add their own commentary.

Although the couple are evidently almost penniless and desperate for cash, Susan still can’t stop herself nipping down to the bric-a-brac shop for just one more antique movie poster. Also infatuated by Gerard Depardieu, Susan seemingly forges letters purporting to be from him.

The air of facetiousness and eccentricity pervades every aspect of the production. The Nottingham police, alerted to the Wycherley murders after Christopher blurts out the truth in a phone call to his stepmother, are like a troupe of standup comedians. Kate O’Flynn plays the beady-eyed DC Emma Lancing, Samuel Anderson is her doggedly dim sidekick DC Paul Wilkie, and Daniel Rigby (pictured above) delivers an amusingly splenetic turn as the permanently exasperated DCI Geoff Collier. When the cops quiz the Wycherleys’ Blenheim Close neighbours, they respond with cosy Alan Bennett-like monologues.

Thewlis moves through all this in a kind of melancholy slow motion, protesting that he must protect his emotionally fragile wife, but so far his inner feelings remain closely guarded. The series gets more involving as it goes on, but you have to ask whether this post-modern jokiness is suitable for brutal real-life murders committed not very long ago.

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