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Appropriate Adult
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
APPROPRIATE ADULT may not be available on USA Format DVD as yet, but for those interested in seeing this remarkable achievement in filmmaking, it is viewable now on Sundance Channel. Watch for it. APPROPRIATE ADULT is one of the few films that relates the true story of a serial killer without resorting to forcing the audience to watch reenactments of the murders. Instead the writer, director and actors bring this savage bit of history to the screen solely through a serious of interview conducted with the killer in the presence of the British police and an 'Appropriate Adult' - one who has been trained to help the accused by detecting if the accused has learning difficulties or other encumbrances that might make the interviews invalid.

First a bit of fact: 'Frederick Walter Stephen West (29 September 1941 - 1 January 1995), was a British serial killer. Between 1967 and 1987, he alone, and later, he and his wife Rosemary, tortured, raped and murdered at least 11 young women and girls, many at the couple's homes. The majority of the murders occurred between May 1973 and September 1979 at their home in Gloucester. Rosemary West also murdered Fred's stepdaughter (his first wife's biological daughter) Charmaine, while he was serving a prison sentence for theft. During this time they resided at 25 Cromwell Street, Gloucester. The house was demolished in 1996 and was converted into a landscaped footpath connecting Cromwell Street to St. Michaels Square.' It is now believed that West was responsible for 20 other similarly executed murders.

The film focuses on the Appropriate Adult Janet Leach (Emily Watson in an Oscar worthy performance), a trainee social worker who is asked by Gloucester police to sit in on the interrogations of Frederick West (played with extraordinary skill by Dominic West). West is a sociopath whose past of preying on women comes from the animal magnetism he owns, a factor which is strong enough to keep Janet on the case a Fred's assigned 'helper'. Janet lives with Mike (Anthony Flanagan) who is a bipolar victim and with whom Janet has three children. The tightrope of psychological stability for Janet is threatened by her hearing all the grisly details of the murders as well as facing a home where Mike stop his lithium and must be psychiatrically hospitalized. Janet is repulsed by what Fred unwinds and decides she cannot manage to remain the appropriate adult, but Fred sees her as his only friend and promises here that if she stays on the case he will tell her the truth about everything. The interviews are held in the presence of Detective Constable Hazel Savage (Sylvestra Le Tousel), Detective Superintendent John Bennett (Robert Glenister), West's assigned solicitor Howard Ogden (Gerald Horan) and Janet. There are moments when Fred tells Janet details he hasn't shared with the police, but because of her assigned role as appropriate adult she must hold these conversations with the murderer in confidence. There are times when the interrogation group accompany Fred to his home to find the bodies buried in his garden and cellar, but these breaks are few and outside of the visits to Janet's home and to the hospital while Mike is institutionalized the film is claustrophobically viewed in the dank interrogation room. Once the interrogation is complete and hearings begin, Fred pleads with Janet to visit him in prison to share all the details of his life. The manner in which their relationship comes to an end is shocking but allows Janet to return to her home life with Mike and her three children: the paparazzi finally leave Janet alone.

The story was written for the screen by Neil McKay and directed by Julian Jarrod. The film is approximately 2 1/2 hours in length, but the story is so fascinating and the acting is so incredibly fine on the part of everyone in this cast that the film itself feels short. Dominic West and Emily Watson are absolutely extraordinary in this film. With the quality of their performances it is doubtful the movie would have the enormous impact that it has. Grady Harp, December 11
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 27, 2012
I watched this film 3 times in a row-and knew I had to add it to my film collection. Unfortunately it is not yet available on USA format. Emily Watson portrays Janet Leach as the Appropriate Adult-an amazing performance. This true story is unbelievable; that this is something that really happened. From beginning to end-it will hold your attention; leave you gasping- and ALMOST feel a twinge of pity for the bad guy.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 23, 2012
{4.5 stars}

Closely based on a true story, "Appropriate Adult" is more about the subject of its title--Janet Leach, a trained social worker superbly played here by Emily Watson, who, in British police investigations, acts as a sort of neutral witness to the interrogations and prosecution--than it is about the murders or the perpetrator himself. There is no gore or violence to speak of, nor are there any reenactments of the crimes. The acting is plain and unvarnished, which makes it all-the-more effective. Even if it's not really his story, there is excellent character development of serial killer Fred West, and the level of empathy Leach reaches with him--and we, in turn, reach with her--is the most chilling thing about this film. Although a quiet story which moves much closer to the speed-of-life than most in its genre, "Appropriate Adult" still has its share of twists and surprises as well as some brief but engrossing courtroom drama at the end.

Those used to Hollywood crime drama may be frustrated by the simplicity and lack of fast action in this film. Nonetheless, "Appropriate Adult" contains something far better than cheap sensationalism and succeeds in being both highly disturbing and highly touching.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on September 27, 2012
Main characters in this movie: Janet (the appropriate adult) and Fred (serial killer) are played by two fabulous actors: Emily Watson and Dominic West. While most american audiences are familiar with Emily's body of work, others may know Dominic from his role of a police officer in HBO's series "The Wire". In this film he makes physical transformation: his hair is curly, his face more wrinkled and he has really bad teeth, so typical of lower-middle / working class person. His cockney accent is unmistakable working class.

Apparenly, in England, when police has a crime suspect in their custody they believe is mentally unstable or mentally incompetent, they assign "an appropriate adult" - a trained person who can observe the interrogation process and validate that police was using proper methods to investigate the crime and that the accused is in sound mind. Janet is studying to become a social worker from his second marriage. Janet volunteers with the local police department for the role. After her training, her first case is the case of the serial murderer who killed his former wife, stepdaughter and daughter amongst many other victims. It is interesting psychological drama. What we know of killer is that his second wife with whom he has a family is a prostitute. They indulge in sado-masochistic sex with young women they bring to their home; after which they kill their victims and dispose of their bodies. Many of the bodies are burried in the garden behind the home where they live.

During the interrogation process, this serial killer gets Janet under his spell. Repulsed by him she is attracted at the same time to learn what can compel a person to commit such horrific crimes. She hopes that in the process of his interrogation, she can get the truth out of him and help grieving families close the chapter about their loved ones. But she also enjoys the fact that this ruthless serial killer needs her. She is his means of having a strength to confess of his murders and his wife's involvement in some of the cases. This film shows on psychological level how these two characters play off on each other. Mentally and emotionally they become dependant on each other. Long after Fred is send off to jail, he still manages to have Janet get him presents, visits him in jail and receive his phone calls. Fred has mind of a sociopath that is as magnetic as it is repulsive.

Film never goes into details on how victims were killed. Both screenplay writer and director deserve recognition of giving victims the respect and dignity after their death. It is a chilling story. I was unaware of these crimes that were uncovered in 1994. Personally I was curious of finding out how ordinary person can adjust their life after being a part of such horrible confession. While unburdening his conscience, Fred burdens Janet's for the rest of her life. It is an amazing film, great story and even better acting.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 9, 2013
Whoa! Many reviewers here have described the story in "Appropriate Adult" in detail so there's no need for me to rehash it. What I can say is this was the most chilling and riveting story I've seen in years. The acting was phenomenal and the twists and turns took you off guard and in the end you were simply AMAZED at how talented the English are with crime. It puts the new series "The Following" to shame.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon February 11, 2012
This is an ITV made production based on the true life account of what happened in the case of Fred and Rose West. In 1994 the UK was rocked by the revelations of the married couple who turned out to be sadistic torturers and serial killers; this is part of that tragic story.

The film opens up in February of 1994, as the Gloucester Police close in with a warrant to search the West's' home at 25, Cromwell Street (the house became so notorious that it had to be demolished). Rose fears discovery and calls Fred to tell him that they have to put their plan into operation. Fred West is initially arrested because of the disappearance of his daughter. The police feel that he is `not the full shilling' as we used to say, and so decide they need an appropriate adult to advise him and see that fair play is done. As it is the weekend they can't get anyone but Janet Leach (played brilliantly by Emily Watson) is a trainee social worker and has done the training and is available. She thinks she has to sit in on someone with learning disabilities. She is clearly shocked as Fred starts to fess up to the murder and dismemberment of his own child.

The legal position of an `appropriate adult' entails professional confidence and as such anything he tells her in private, she can not relay to the police. Janet also has to deal with her common law husband who is so bi-polar that he is on lithium. As the relationship or more rightly dependency that Fred has on her develops, the more of her time is taken up by being there for him and the more her family suffer. Whilst he maintains that Rose is innocent, he starts to open up to Janet knowing it will go no further.

The death toll rises as more body parts are found, and the tension through out is palpable. A word on Monica Dolan who plays Rose West, she was shockingly realistic and steals absolutely every scene she is in. That may because she is portraying such a monster, or just that she is ruddy good, genuinely scary. Fed played by Dominic West, (he got that part to save on the cost of the titles because he has the same surname as his on screen character - only joking ITV) comes across almost as a victim, he clearly has issues and is almost vulnerable, this is exacerbated by his need for approval from a woman and in the absence of his prostitute wife, he turns to Janet.

This was a two part programme on ITV (Independent Television) and is a credit that they are producing quality programmes that we would normally associate with the BBC. Director Julian Jarrold is one to watch if he can do such a production for the small screen, then he has clear potential. It runs to 140 minutes but will have you gripped all the way through. My only gripe is that there was so much more `story' to tell, but that is for another time, a seriously good effort.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 15, 2012
This release is missing 40 minutes of material.

The original airing was 180 minutes. This release is only 2 hours and 19 minutes.

The UK DVD has the full 180 minutes.

Also, this release has no English subtitles. Some people need subtitles to help with the British accents. The UK DVD has English subtitles.
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VINE VOICEon January 14, 2015
If I could, I would probably give this mini-series 3.5 stars. That's because it has some definite good elements:

--Dominic West's performance as Fred West as the weirdly folksy serial killer
--the unusual perspective of the case (not from the eyes of a cop or a victim but through what amounted to be a horrified onlooker)
--the fact that the film doesn't show any of the murders...just their sad aftermaths

On the negative side, the character of Janet Leach (the "appropriate adult") comes across as rather hard to understand. I could see someone like her being compelled at first by horrified fascination to participate in the case. I could also see her wanting to take part out of altruism (the desire to find out what happened to all the victims).

But after a certain point, I find myself thinking that by becoming the pen pal of a man like Fred West and spending a lot of time with him after her role as an appropriate adult ended, she was being absolutely crazy. The last thing in the world I would want would be a lot of memories of what Fred West looked like, talked like, and acted like...and I would think as a woman and a mother that ought to have gone double for Leach. I would also love to know if in real life she spent any time --as the mini-series shows-- alone in a room with him when he was not handcuffed (I can't conceive of a woman putting herself at such potential risk).

Another thing that never gets explained adequately by the film is why Mrs. Leach perjured herself in the court over her getting money from the Daily Mirror. I suppose she could have just been stupid...but it would have been nice if there had been an explanation offered.

So I'd give a guarded recommendation to see this if you want to see a haunting and creepy depiction of the aftermath of a serial killer (actually serial killers since West's wife was fully involved) case.
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on January 8, 2015
A not too compelling drama, where the two main characters develop some sort of bond. We only know this because it's based on real events. You certainly cannot tell WHY this bond formed from the show, as it seemed to have went to production in the embryo stage. The police interrogations rung false. The usual speeches rather than questions. Predictable and lame. If you want a show like that look no further than the American drivel. I just expect more from British TV. Neither character is developed well, nor are they particularly likable. Nonsense dialogue about the killer "feeling" the presence of the departed. That always fails-it's just a cop out on the part of the script writers. Why she cared about this lunkhead at all is truly baffling, and her son was just a selfish jerk. And of course there's the obligatory character with a mental disorder-in this case bi-polar. It's a dry attempt at making a very interesting, tragic story into a decent show, and it failed miserably. I only got halfway through the 2nd part before pulling the plug. Much better shows out there. Watch in online if you want, but it's definitely NOT worth buying.
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on May 7, 2015
This 2:13 hour production from ITV (2011) is a realistic depiction of the events surrounding the discovery and prosecution of the serial killers Fred and Rose West in 1994/5. Thankfully, the murders, which occurred in the 1960s and 70s, aren't shown as they'd probably be too graphic even by today's gory standards. I remember how each day the news revealed more and more about the extent of the West's horrific crimes; this program shows how it all happened. It's a thought-provoking drama not an action-packed mystery All the actors do a superb job and Monica Dolan won the Best Supporting Actress BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) for her portrayal of the vile Rose. Because British procedures are quite different, having an 'appropriate adult' may not seem to make sense to US viewers; the important thing to remember is that, unfortunately, this is a true story. And, in all likelihood, this notorious pair probably killed more young women.
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