A Confession (series streaming on Sony LIV); Cast: Martin Freeman, Imelda Staunton, Joe Absolom, Siobhan Finneran, Florence Howard, Charlie Cooper; Direction: Paul Andrew Williams; Rating: * * * and 1/2 (three and a half stars)
By Vinayak Chakravorty
Most Indian lovers of crime drama would instantly recall Martin Freeman as an affable Dr Watson to the Benedict Cumberbatch avatar of Sherlock Holmes. His new outing, a starring role, gives Freeman a deeper involvement as a lawkeeper in the plot. The tone here is also more sombre in the way it engages.
“A Confession” bears the hallmark of well-crafted and layered British television. At one level the gritty, six-part series leaves a slowburn impact. But at quite another, the story evolves beyond being a mere suspense drama. A cerebral narrative delves into the mind of the protagonist, Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher (played by Freeman), who is consumed by an obsession to crack the case any which way.
The idea is intriguing because the case in question is a real-life tragedy. “A Confession” accounts Detective Fulcher’s bid to hunt down the killer of a young woman, and how it led to glory as well as downfall for the cop.
Fulcher in fact is credited as a scriptwriter of the series along with Jeff Pope. This renders an element of brutal honesty to the narrative, as an engaging chain of events unfold.
The story takes off on an ominous, if unhurried, note. Sian O’Callaghan, a 22-year-old woman, goes missing one Friday night in the town of Swindon. The police get into action and after a few false leads, Fulcher takes in a suspect named Christopher Halliwell (Joe Absolom).
The Halliwell case is only too well known in England, and director Paul Andrew Williams smartly desists from fashioning a whodunit with his available story material. Rather, Halliwell’s identity as the primary suspect in the case is revealed even before the series runs halfway through.
A vital turn of events happens when Fulcher discovers a second victim, Becky. Along with using the incident for plot progression, the focus also remains on creating intrigue by exploring the psyche of the protagonists — Halliwell’s as well as Fulcher’s.
For Fulcher, understanding Halliwell’s motive becomes as much a fixation as solving the case. His transformation from a mildmannered public servant to a brandisher of the law who will go to any extent — even breach the law itself — to achieve success in the case becomes a high point of the drama.
Director Williams is also credible for the sensitivity with which he does an extreme close-up of the victim’s relatives. This is a true story, and characters are almost all real people. The narrative is impressive for the way it manages to create drama without sensationalising the real-life situations it deals with.
The storytelling is propped by effective use of background score (Niall Byrne) and camera (Vanessa Whyte), along with some fine performances. The narrative uses real-life footage in parts to heighten the drama, and a stellar cast led by Martin Freeman does brilliantly to fuse fact and its fictional depiction into a cohesive whole.
“A Confession” overwhelms with the impact that it leaves, for the quietness with which it captures pain and anguish without losing its primary focus on setting up captivating suspense drama. This is your show if you love your crime thrillers served with sense and sensibility.