‘Landscapers’ (HBO) Review: Olivia Colman’s Lavish True Crime Story

“Landscapers” paints two vivid but distinct portraits of the same crime: one driven by greed and despair, the other by love.

Landscapers“, the latest limited series collaboration between HBO and Sky Studios, is a thorny backyard project, sown on the brink of overdevelopment but still cared for with great love. To avoid the usual traps of true crime, the dramatic production asks the audience to consider the human before the titles, deconstructing a strange little story beyond the familiar box it is forced into. .

To begin with, the opening synopsis overlaps the screen: “In 2014, Susan and Christopher Edwards were found guilty of murder and sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison. To this day they still maintain their chastity.”

In the annals, the first verse is the beginning and the end of the event. But what “Landscapers” assume, as hinted by the delayed revelation of the second sentence, is what if it isn’t? Director Will Sharpe and writer/creator Ed Sinclair address the central implication of the joint statement – whether Susan (Olivia Colman) and Christopher (David Thewlis) was wrongly convicted — and invited audiences to choose their own answers at the end of the four-hour series that was gripping, cheeky, and even heartbreaking. But the “Landscapers” don’t care who did it (they did) or the courtroom drama (without any); instead, it observes its criminal pairing with a passion usually reserved for great romance, while questioning whether an idealistic interpretation of the two killers will ever fit, or if the only relevant scenario is a cold assumption like those on which courts and police rely to make sense of inanimate behaviour.

Celebrating 15 years after the deaths of William and Patricia Wycherley (Susan’s parents), the premiere sees the Edwards living in France with less money and fewer friends. Christopher struggles to get a job (his French is incorrect exaggeration), but that didn’t stop Susan from acting as if everything was fine. She’s a happy housewife, waiting for her husband to return with her ear at the door and proudly teasing a tuna sandwich “on plain bread!” But she’s shady about their finances (by choice, apparently), and doesn’t want to accept how bad their predicament has become. Taking on the sole responsibility of their safety puts pressure on Christopher, and pressure often leads to bad choices.

Between the pair’s difficult decision-making and the portrayal of (mostly) policemen as underpowered buffalo, “Landscapers” could be a black comedy. But Sharpe and Sinclair’s range of choices is even broader, driven by their real subject matter and friendly to their intended audience: Susan and Christopher are big movie buffs. Their depleted bank accounts became increasingly red every time Susan wandered into her favorite souvenir shop – breaking her promise not to buy anything a second time when a poster The classic “High Noon” poster pops up – and Christopher regularly receives letters from none other than Gérard Depardieu (a relationship explained in the second half of the series).

Susan often considers herself her own picture presenter, whether she’s choosing a cake or recalling her first date, and Sharpe often recounts the characters as western cowboys. Classic West or even actors in their own stories. Sometimes it’s a fantasy; Susan, whom Christopher repeatedly describes as “fragile”, uses film to evade reality and often introduces reality into her favorite films as the only way to process what’s going on. .

But other times, it’s not up to Susan. When questioned by the police – played by Detective Emma Lansing (Kate O’Flynn), who exhibits unrelenting likability among her clumsy, sadistic colleagues – she and Christopher will walk from the stage. to another stage, setting, either their own voice or Emma’s. The rooms are illuminated with colorful red and blue lights; the character looks directly into the camera and speaks to the audience as if we had any choice but to follow; Crew members pop up in the track shots. “Landscapers” is not just a TV show about people who love movies that are seen as an homage to the classics; it’s a moving picture that knows when the pictures are moving – choosing when to let the viewer get lost in the cinematic magic and when to turn on the lights, exposing truths that are hard to ignore.

Landscapers HBO The True Story of Real Crime by David Thewlis

David Thewlis in “Landscapers”

Stefania Rosini / HBO

A particularly effective option is to end each episode with a synopsis built from actual news footage. No matter how lost you get into Susan and Christopher’s love story, the familiar scenery from real-life reporters will help you step back from the film’s subjective depiction. (There aren’t enough superlatives to praise Thewlis and Colman, who somehow break every fourth wall without losing the tie for their characters.) in general, whether it’s done. by the police, the media or a filmmaker. The HBO series is a romantic story where both halves of the main couple vow to protect each other at all costs and then do exactly that, no matter how difficult. The narrative is simpler: Susan and Christopher just need money, and killing her parents is the fastest way to get it.

“Landscapers” prove both sides can be right, even if the justice system only has room for one side. Chris said: “In movies, there are good people and bad people, and I think we have to accept that for most people, we will always be the bad guy. “But we love each other, Susan, and no one can take that away from us.” Instead of trying to do right or wrong or exploit a painful story for passive entertainment (as so many true crime series do), HBO’s four-part romance takes on mystery while also celebrating the possibility of These two probably did what they did for love. The courts, the police, and the world at large may have taken that story away from them — and they distanced themselves — but “Landscapers” brought it back through their favorite form: the cinema.

Rank: B +

“Landscapers” premieres Monday, December 6 at 9pm on HBO. New episodes of the four-part limited series will air every Monday.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2021/12/landscapers-hbo-review-olivia-colman-david-thewlis-true-story-1234683513/ ‘Landscapers’ (HBO) Review: Olivia Colman’s Lavish True Crime Story

Aila Slisco

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