mon 26/07/2021

Lie With Me, Channel 5 review - abuse and betrayal in the Melbourne suburbs | reviews, news & interviews

Lie With Me, Channel 5 review - abuse and betrayal in the Melbourne suburbs

Lie With Me, Channel 5 review - abuse and betrayal in the Melbourne suburbs

Anglo-Australian thriller doesn't fulfil its potential

Happy families (not): Becky Hart (Phoebe Roberts), Anna Fallmont (Charlie Brooks) and Jake Fallmont (Brett Tucker)

A joint production between Channel 5 and Australia’s Network 10, the four-part mystery Lie With Me didn’t do itself many favours by kicking off with its least persuasive episode.

However, if you stuck with it, hidden layers began to reveal themselves, and the final instalment delivered a satisfyingly malevolent twist.

Channel 5’s press pack for journalists supplied some background detail about the characters which wasn’t seen on screen and would have added some helpful light and shade to the story, so maybe it was originally planned as a longer series. There were also a couple of characters, Liam the gardener and Ray the taxi driver, whose roles felt as if they’d been brutally pruned. Filming was interrupted by Covid, which might explain everything.

The upshot was that it felt as if the viewer was being dropped into the middle of events which had already been in motion for some time, so it took time to get orientated about who was doing what and why. Nutshell-wise, Melbourne lawyer Jake Fallmont (Brett Tucker) had returned to his hometown from a work placement in London with his English wife Anna (Charlie Eastenders Brooks), ostensibly with the idea of getting their rocky marriage off to a new start. The couple needed a nanny for their children Grace and Oliver, and the personable and enthusiastic Becky Hart (Phoebe Roberts) seemed to fit the bill. However, Jake had witheld some crucial information from his wife – he’d been having an affair with Australia-born Becky in London, and had arranged for her to come back to to Oz not only to be his live-in lover, but also to assist in his scheme to leave Anna and take the children. Nice guy.

Even for a lawyer, Jake was racking up record scores on the sleaze-ometer. While he was banging Becky in the basement with the aid of bondage gear, handcuffs and doses of the date-rape drug GHB, his ongoing twisted masterplan was to make Anna, a long-term depression sufferer, look like a bad mother and a menace to the kids (she hadn’t helped herself by crashing the family car with them in the back, happily with no tragic consequences). Thus Jake was cynically replacing her prescription meds with his own home-made mind-bending cocktail. No wonder she was wandering around like a ghost in a fog of confusion, unable to get a grip on the way her life was heading.

Anna’s inadvertent discovery of the Jake-Becky affair was a game-changer, and the way she took back control and began to steer events in her own preferred direction became the driving theme of the piece. She began to undermine Becky’s attachment to Jake by making it seem that he was a physically abusive husband, and she enlisted Becky in her own plan to leave Jake which turned out to be an ingenious decoy operation. Jake’s arrogance and callousness became the weapons with which Anna took him down, and while it belatedly began to dawn on Becky that she’d hitched her wagon to the Dr Mengele of the Melbourne suburbs, the handcuffs she now found herself wearing belonged to the cops (pictured above, Nadine Garner as Detective Taormina). Suddenly, bewildered Becky was left holding the bag with no-one left to turn to. Her indignation that Anna had framed her was comically inappropriate.

Lie With Me had some telling points to make about mental health, emotional abuse and power dynamics in relationships, so it’s a shame it felt as if it had gone off half-cocked. Let’s blame it on the epidemic.

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