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Appropriate Adult (DVD Review)

8 Sep, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 9/11/12
$26.98 DVD
Not rated.
Stars Emily Watson, Dominic West, Monica Dolan.

In the annals of violent crime, few perpetrators are more insidious than serial killers. When apprehended, their perceptions of reality, societal norms and perversion are typically off the charts compared to the average criminal.

Into this psychological quicksand volunteers Janet Leach (Emily Watson), an “appropriate adult,” the title given a social worker assigned by the British legal system to offer non-prejudicial assistance to a defendant (child or adult) presumed unable to fully comprehend his or her legal predicament during questioning.

Janet is asked to volunteer her services for Fred West (Dominic West from “The Hour” and no relation), who is being questioned in the disappearance of his daughter. Fred, who vacillates between obliviousness and cunning in the interrogation, matter of factly describes how he killed the girl, dismembered and buried the body — much to shock of Leach.

Based on actual events, the killing is just the tip of the iceberg to a series of sexually based torture slayings of young women carried out by Fred and his dominating wife, Rose (Monica Dolan), in the 1970s and ’80s — with many of the victims buried in their backyard.

The next day, of course, Fred recants his testimony. The fact Fred is allowed to directly communicate with a third-party civilian is unique to the British legal system since the conversations are deemed off the record. Then there is the issue of safety for the "adult." Leach seems to take it all in stride -- at once fascinated and repulsed by Fred -- emotions that produce irrational behavior on both sides of the law.

Appropriate Adult is an excellent, steady-paced thriller underscored by strong performances by Watson, West and Dolan — all of whom won 2011 BAFTA TV awards for their roles in the two-part British miniseries.

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