It’s inevitable, given the subject matter, that Appropriate Adult
is not the kind of television factual drama that’s going to be to everyone’s taste. In telling the story of notorious British serial killers Fred and Rosemary West, it’s a project facing a real challenge to balance getting the material across, while never straying into any kind of sensationalising of it. Appropriate Adult
, though, walks that line with a staggering amount of skill.
The story is told from the perspective of Janet Leach, the Gloucester housewife who was pivotal in uncovering the extent of the crimes of the Wests. Leach is played by Emily Watson in Appropriate Adult, and, even factoring in the pedigree of her work to date, it’s one of her very best performances.
She’s not alone, though. Dominic West, portraying Fred West, is extraordinary, and it’s the scenes shared by Watson and West that stick in the mind long after the credits have rolled. Appropriate Adult is, crucially, given two feature length episodes to tell its story, and much credit deserves to go to writer Neil McKay for the manner in which he’s tackled it. It’s a controversial piece of work, certainly, but it feels like a diligent one.
This is a sensitive drama that, at its best, is exquisitely played. And while Appropriate Adult is often difficult television, with its subject matter making it often haunting to watch, it’s of rare quality. McKay has found a strong angle from which to tell his story, and the end result is really quite excellent. --Jon Foster