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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly portrayed and superbly acted - chilling to think it is based on a true story, 4 April 2014
By 
Brida "izumi" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Widower [DVD] (DVD)
There is a saying that truth can be stranger than fiction. Well, perhaps it should also read that truth can be more chilling than fiction. THE WIDOWER tells the tale of Malcolm Webster, a seemingly charming man. Yet, as we all know, appearances can be deceptive. This is because Malcolm has secrets, secrets which he must keep from those closest to him. The first episode sees him marrying his first wife, but as she begins to question his debt, he must find a way to 'manage' her. After that, it becomes a bit of a habit for him, using people for his own gains.

I think I found the extent of his behaviour and psychology to be particularly shocking and chilling. To think that there are other people like this is very troubling. It also shows that, just because the police may have their suspicions about someone, unless they can get a conviction their hands are tied when it comes to trying to protect the public. The ending of the series was also perfectly pitched. Although I don't want to give it away for other viewers, suffice to say that one character has a revelation, turning everything they thought they knew and felt on its head.

A brilliant series, I would certainly recommend it.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reece Shearsmith's masterly and compelling portrayal of a mundane psychopath, 7 April 2014
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This review is from: The Widower [DVD] (DVD)
This three-part real crime drama about the murderer Malcolm Webster had impressive credentials to recommend it, even before it was transmitted & the jaw-dropping, grim true story hooked viewers in (and increased its audience over the three episodes) The assured quality attached to the programme from the start was its producer/co-writer Jeff Pope and its lead actor Reece Shearsmith.

Pope has produced several admirably unsensational and sensitively handled true crime dramas on notorious murderers - `This is Personal:The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper', `See No Evil:The Moors Murders' & `Appropriate Adult', about Fred & Rose West. Reece Shearsmith is a superb & versatile actor, who has been giving brilliant performances in an astoundingly diverse range of roles on TV, film & stage over the last 15 years or so. He's often been labelled a `comedy actor' or even `comedian' due to `The League of Gentlemen' & `Psychoville'. However, acting is acting, whether the material is comedic or dramatic & Reece is prodigiously gifted at both.

Malcolm Webster was convicted in 2011 for the murder of his first wife Claire in 1994 and the attempted murder of his second wife Felicity in New Zealand in 1999 in staged car crashes. He planned to marry a third woman, Simone, bigamously, following his return to Scotland after fleeing arrest in New Zealand. The immediate motive for his crimes was greed, including benefiting from real & forged life insurance policies. What `The Widower' showed though, in horribly fascinating detail, was the need to be in control was an overriding urge in Webster and the way he functioned - it is what drove his monstrous actions as much as base greed. That sinister side was submerged beneath a personality of unthreatening banality - a mundane man who gained the trust of three strong & intelligent women.

This duality which allowed him to do what he did and get away with it for so long is the narrative linchpin of `The Widower' and that it succeeds so well and so compellingly is due in great part to the multi-layered, outstanding performance given by Reece Shearsmith as Webster.

The script traces the years from Webster's marriage to his first wife Claire Morris in 1993 to his arrest in 2009 - 15 years focused on one man, his character and behaviour. It's a demanding & complex role - to get across the various traits of Webster's personality exhibited over that time frame - but Shearsmith's portrayal expertly denotes all those aspects, the ones Webster publicly displayed & those he hid and compartmentalised. There is the plausible front, with the sliver thin surface of charm, caring and kindness he deployed in his relationships with women, one which quickly changed to irritation and petulance at the slightest challenge or questioning of his plans or decisions. There is the sniping criticism & peevish complaints as his controlling nature begins to reveal itself and the flashes of real anger when things don't work out in the way he so carefully planned.

All these emotions flit across Shearsmith's mobile, expressive face, are subtlely shown in his body language or hinted at in his tone of voice. Reece must have immersed himself in Malcolm Webster's world and mind (as far as it was really knowable) - his demons, urges, longings, motivations & inadequacies - to reach this level of complexity & convey Webster's particular psychopathy so brilliantly.

There are several standout scenes in Shearsmith's astounding performance that will stay with me in particular: The one-way conversations with his comatose wives he's drugged as his need for control reaches its zenith - startling (almost) soliloquies of disturbing self-justification for his actions, aggrievedly blaming the women for driving him to it; the whispered, plaintive monologue at the grave of his first wife in which he deludingly squares in his mind that the staged car crash was an accident; the way he practices his performance of a grieving husband, tears rolling down his face which he stops dead in a second with an approving slight nod of the head. There is the head shaving scene (done so Malcolm can convince his next conquest Simone he has leukaemia) in which Reece shaved his head for real. Its impact is emotionally and visually visceral and so starkly grim I felt upset just watching it. Finally, there is Simone's confrontation with Webster, when his years of deceit finally catch up with him. His eyes become dark pools of desperation and anger as it dawns on him that his life & the world he's created for himself are collapsing.

The real achievement of `The Widower' is in making the psychopath that Malcolm Webster was, totally and believably human. The phrase `the banality of evil' never felt more real & understandable.

The series was superbly scripted, directed and shot, but its Reece Shearsmith's remarkable performance that makes `The Widower' so grimly hypnotic to watch and a mesmerising, memorable piece of television. It really is worthy of a Bafta for Best Actor.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Shockingly Chilling, 1 April 2014
By 
Brett H "pentangle" (Brighton) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Widower [DVD] (DVD)
Malcolm Webster, played superbly by Reece Shearsmith is frighteningly credible. He has an effective way of worming his way into the affections of women, but has several character failings. He is none too good at managing his money, has a tendency to various sorts of dishonesty, and, worst of all, seems to regard his partners as wholly dispensable once they latch onto any of the first two.

The police have extremely strong suspicions about Webster, particularly latterly after his first two marriages, but are constricted by protocol from taking action, much to their frustration. This is a chillingly realistic portrayal and one can only cringe as one lie after another trips off Webster's tongue. Whilst he is obviously very happy with his girlfriends and wives initially, it is clear to the viewer when his attitude towards them changes, much more so than to his partners themselves.

If you missed this on TV, I would certainly recommend you get the DVD. The acting is excellent and mention should also be made of Webster's three partners, Claire (Sheridan Smith), Felicity (Kate Fleetwood), and Simone (Archie Panjabi). The final shocker for me was realising at the closing credits that this was a true story!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and horrific., 9 May 2014
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This review is from: The Widower [DVD] (DVD)
Having seen this on TV, I had to get the DVD. I was not disappointed. Subtitles very helpful. Good performance by Reece Shearsmith, and commendable performances from everyone else. I did not realise at first that the whole thing was non-fiction, and I was a little worried when I learnt it was. I hoped Malcolm wouldn't gain anything out of the sales of the DVD, but having read the case on the Internet, I was assured that any money made would go towards the families of the victims, or in Felicity and Edward's cases, intended victims. Worth watching!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great except for the 'Kiwi' accents, 13 July 2014
This review is from: The Widower [DVD] (DVD)
Brilliant series - only wish they had cast more New Zealand actors in the roles portraying the NZ characters as the accents of the UK and Australian actors used, while probably okay to UK ears, were hideously wrong to Kiwi ears. Otherwise, suspenseful and gripping.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best series on ITV for years, 4 July 2014
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This review is from: The Widower [DVD] (DVD)
The best series on ITV for years. Full of suspense and drama. Thoroughly recommended. Right to the last episode, left wondering how it would all turn out. Excellent interpretation of a true story.
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4.0 out of 5 stars A true story not to be missed, 1 July 2014
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Very good. Plus it was all true. Don't miss this one
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Murderer., 13 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Widower [DVD] (DVD)
It isn't so much the performances in this ITV 'drama' but the sheer audacity and twisted mentality of the protagonist Malcolm Webster that has such a powerfully visceral effect.

When one understands that the unfolding trail of bloody minded poisoning and cold blooded murder and attempted murder, not forgetting attempted arson, of each female was simply to satisfy the greed and lust for money of a serial killer whose mind was nothing more than a mental health 'ghetto' the shock of the actions of an outwardly 'normal' person make ones feelings towards this cruel and venomous creature disturbingly palpable.

The callousness and 'matter of factness' of Websters actions is beyond belief. Apologies if this review is rather rambling I am having serious issues of expressing my horror at such brutality towards trusting and loving people by an obviously deranged individual who continues to refuse any responsibility for his actions and continues to plead his innocence for the murder and attempted murder of three unsuspecting people. May he rot in prison.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 5 Jun 2014
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This review is from: The Widower [DVD] (DVD)
Brilliantly, the acting was superb. Although you always knew 'who done it' it was still full of suspense. The face that it was based on real events added to it - unbelievable. Well worth watching.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling - but well acted!, 30 May 2014
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This review is from: The Widower [DVD] (DVD)
Saw this on TV, so well written and acted, gives a good rounded and genuine view on the very clever manipulations of someone with a severe personality disorder and the lengths they can and will go to, to fulfil their needs regardless of the other. Bought it for a friend living in Spain caught up in the confusions and similar manipulations of a relationship, being able to watch it in the third person or if you like, a step away has helped to view and deal with the situation in a clearer and healthier way!
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