This Quiet Shocker of a "Whydunnit" Miniseries
That Riveted International Viewers
Takes You Deep Inside the Mind
Of a Dangerously Deadly Daddy's Girl
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As we discover throughout the alternately riveting yet disturbing made-for-ITV miniseries Fallen Angel adapted from Andrew Taylor’s internationally successful, lauded Requiem for an Angel: The Roth Trilogy, crime instead of love grows where Emilia Fox’s sinister Rosemary goes.
A “whydunnit” in every sense of the word—promising as the tagline boasts to uncover just what was involved in “the making of a murderer”—over the course of director Andrew Drury’s eerily creepy three episodes, we venture far back into the life of Fox’s psychopathic character born Rosemary who goes by the deceptive name of Angel in the first shocking episode.
The film is deeply unsettling from the start as Angel abducts a young girl for reasons unknown while living with a mentally challenged potential pedophile. And while as someone with a major reluctance to watch works that fixate on child endangerment, I share DVDTalk critic Jeffrey Kauffman’s humanistic decision to reveal that the girl who becomes Angel’s prey is released without injury—it’s nonetheless a work sure to divide audiences with or without that spoiler.
As the sinister and easily demonic Angel, Fox (The Pianist) delves so convincingly into the twisted side buried beneath her surface level beauty, I couldn’t help but think it was a pity that The Pianist director Roman Polanski hadn’t utilized her for one of his definitive psychological dramas from the era of Rosemary’s Baby, Knife in the Water, Repulsion, and Chinatown.
Although most mysteries would’ve ended when Fox was taken into custody for the abduction of the darling daughter of a police officer and his newly appointed vicar wife at the end of Fallen Angel’s first episode ("The Four Last Things"), that’s where the work truly begins as a few secrets of the woman dubbing herself Angel’s past are revealed and furthermore in the second and third episodes as we move to the development of two key incidents in her life that may have helped create the monster she was to become.
Far more interested in the “nurture” question than the “nature” one in terms of the psychological development of the detached woman—in the heavily padded but riveting second episode (that somewhat confuses when you begin to look too deeply into a few potential plot-holes), we move to Angel/Rosie’s awkward teenage years in "The Judgement of Strangers" as she’s desperate to keep her vicar father’s attention when he plans to remarry.
While perhaps the most chilling and undeniably devastating episode is in the final one-- "The Office of the Dead," that travels way back in time to encounter Rosie in 1979—it’s startling to piece together the events of her life as we discover what everyone around her has been hiding with half-truths, secrets meant to protect, and disturbing revelations that come tumbling out when characters in the first episode reappear in other forms throughout the rest of the series.
Additionally, screenwriter Peter Ramsley balances out Rosie’s plot-line with a local, disturbing tale of a mad religious leader given the far too-on-the-nose writerly name of “Youlgreave.” While he gets an "A" for effort in trying to make sense in everything found in Taylor’s source material by managing to weave a heavy horror-lite dose of sacrifice and satanic ritual into the narrative—the overlap between these two histories is never quite rock solid except in that it’s certain to help keep viewers up nights when you couple them together into the work’s disturbing effect.
Admirably, British television has always offered superlative programming in the realm of taking an analytical view of crime by working in the sociology and psychology of the cases to stunning effect especially in shows such as one of the UK’s finest-- Cracker.
And the high quality production values of the gorgeously lensed Fallen Angel are no exception as the visual look of the 16:9 aspect ratio film captured on this stunning DVD transfer make it appear on par with a cinematic feature film that’s just as upsetting in its beauty as the series’ icy sinister Hitchockian blonde murderess.
Still, ultimately, there’s something about the work that still kept me at an arm’s distance. For, although the individual pieces of the puzzle are sure to rivet—some of the sequencing seems to make this particular Angel a forced, tough fit where some reshaping may have been necessary to give it the precision and clarity it needed in helping present a more wholly plausible picture.
Of course, additional viewings may help clear up any misconceptions considerably and likewise aid in tying together a few of the loose strands and overlapping characters and plots that grow far more complex as we travel back into time. Needless to say, admittedly, by the time the film has finished we have a greater understanding of Fox’s character than we did from the start.
Still, nonetheless, I’m still uncertain whether the “making of a murderer” paradigm was much more than a gimmick since there’s still some gaps left in between and points-of-view abandoned that would’ve been vital to capture to better assess the depths this particular Angel fell to over the years beginning (or structurally ending) with an ultimate shocker when she was barely out of diapers that is sure to find you stunned long after the final credits begin to play.