21 February 2017 | bob the moo
Effectively drama, which avoids preaching or barnstorming but instead unsettles
I had heard lots of positive reviews of this drama, and of course the timeliness of the narrative is obvious to all. A celebrity who had been at his peak in the 1970's is accused of sexual assault by multiple victims, leading to press and prosecution. The plot seems fairly straightforward in terms of what it does, and for sure the "ripped from the tabloids" content made me think it would be soapy, dramatic, and perhaps be hammed up for the sake of being cathartic. Instead the drama tends to avoid this totally and goes for a tone/content which I liked, even if I think it didn't totally work all the time.
This tone is one of creepy observation of the whole thing. In some ways it works because it seems to avoid cliché and expectation, leaving the viewer to go with it in a way perhaps they would not have done had it been so obviously one way or the other. It had its limits for me, simply because it was so very reminiscent of the Channel 4 show Utopia. This is for good reason since they share director, DOP, and composer at least; but the use of this package worked so well in the sci-fi that it made me feel it unsuited here. Perhaps to those coming to it for the first time there would be no such reservation due to the lack of association. It does work though, and the atmosphere it produces allows the performances to (ironically) feel more natural within a stylized presentation. Coltrane is great, but Walters is by far the standout in her gradual doubt on her way to clarity. Riseborough is also very strong. The younger versions of the cast are also very good, matching the "main" performances very well.
Overall it is an effective drama which is well balanced, allowing the viewer room to think. I wasn't totally sold on the style, but for sure it works.