Emily Watson & Dominic West Star In APPROPRIATE ADULTJanuary 06, 2012

Emily Watson & Dominic West Star In APPROPRIATE ADULT

Sundance Channel

Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies and shows on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: APPROPRIATE ADULT (Sundance Channel).



By Jean Tait


Serial killers make for gruesome, voyeuristic stories. Most non-fiction serial killer stories are told from the point of view of the detectives trying to catch the killer, displaying hideous images of bodies found. APPROPRIATE ADULT takes a completely different tack. APPROPRIATE ADULT begins once the suspect is already in hand. The audience never sees bodies (or body parts), nor do we find out why the suspect has been brought in for questioning in the first place.


Emily Watson, Dominic West / APPROPRIATE ADULT (Sundance Channel)

In the British legal system, an “appropriate adult” is assigned to children or learning-disabled adults to be a suspect’s advocate while they are being questioned. In 1994, Janet Leach, a social worker-in-training got a call to be the appropriate adult for Fred West, a suspected murderer. Ms. Leach sat in on more than 100 interviews with Fred West, a situation for which she was ill-prepared. APPROPRIATE ADULT tells the story of Janet Leach, using trial transcripts and extensive interviews with Ms. Leach.


Emily Watson / APPROPRIATE ADULT (Sundance Channel)

As portrayed by the remarkable Emily Watson (BREAKING THE WAVES, HILARY AND JACKIE), Ms. Leach is both fascinated and repelled by serial killer Fred West. Pulled in by his insistence that she is the only one he can trust, she finds herself unable to disconnect from him even when her job is officially over, and even as her involvement causes problems for her at home. Ms. Watson is always willing to throw herself into the dark side for a character, and she is brilliant here as a woman drawn in, yet unable to comprehend the extent of the evil she is drawn to.


Dominic West (no relation, THE WIRE) is mesmerizing as the emotionally disconnected killer who can talk about killing and dismembering his own daughter as if he is talking about taking out the garbage, and then turn around and become hysterical about his wife being separated from their younger children. Although uneducated, his cunning intelligence belies his need for an assigned appropriate adult, but once the system is set in motion, it becomes increasingly difficult to keep Ms. Leach out of things.


Dominic West / APPROPRIATE ADULT (Sundance Channel)

The rest of the cast is equally strong, bringing nuance and complexity to smaller roles. Seeming to be far less militaristic than the US detectives we are used to seeing on television, the British legal system is as fascinating a character as any of the individuals. Every time Fred West speaks and a detective reminds him that he is still “under caution” (the equivalent of our Miranda rights), I wanted to yell at them to just let him confess!


Emily Watson, Dominic West / APPROPRIATE ADULT (Sundance Channel)

Originally aired in the UK as a two-parter, Sundance Channel is showing APPROPRIATE ADULT as one long show, calling it an original scripted event. (I guess to be different?) It is long and deliberate, but watching Emily Watson and Dominic West is never dull.




- Jean Tait


Jean Tait is a contributing writer to On Demand Weekly. Currently the Director of Programming for the Connecticut Film Festival, Jean has programmed for the Jacksonville Film Festival and Sundance Channel.

Look for APPROPRIATE ADULT (Sundance Channel On Demand) availability on your local cable provider.


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