Did we like it?
Like isn’t the right word. This was a sensitively handled (as much as this subject matter could be handled sensitively) dramatisation of the Moors Murders, but using Myra Hindley’s sister Maureen (played by Joanne Froggatt) and her husband Dave (Michael McNulty) as the way into the story. This was a good way of sidestepping the obvious viewer antipathy of sympathising with or humanising lead characters as reviled as Brady and Hindley, while also showing the devastation they caused within their own family – not just to the victims and their families. This was a drama production that on the evidence of this first part, ITV looked to have got right.
What was good about it?
• The opening scene’s juxtaposition of Herman’s Hermits’ jaunty I’m Into Something Good with Maureen pushing her pram through grim, rain-sodden Manchester backstreets, foreshadowing the darkness to come.
• Each scene on the Moors opened with several establishing shots of how desolate and windswept Saddleworth is – almost creating a fifth character in the story.
• The film had obviously had the colour desaturated from it, leading to an almost black and white feel. The stark reds of Hindley’s lipstick, the light in Brady’s darkroom and the blood from the Edward Evans murder were then dramatic contrasts.
• The crucial performances of Maxine Peake as Hindley and Sean Harris as Brady in extremely difficult roles were excellent. Harris’ performance in particular was superb. His reptilian appearance and ‘dead’ eyes caused the skin to crawl every time he was on screen. A Bafta award nomination surely awaits.
• Thankfully – the killing of Edward Evans apart – the murders were not shown. Instead, the film used newspaper stories and scenes with George Costigan’s DCI Mounsey to track the child disappearances.
• The use of strong character actors (at one point it seemed that the cast of Early Doors was having a reunion) as the policemen left us looking forward to the second part of the film which will concentrate on the interviews and trial.
What was bad about it?
• On a couple of occasions, major plot points were heavily signposted – and it showed. The scene between Mounsey and Pauline Reade’s mother where she says, “I believe she was taken here. Probably by someone she knew!” may as well have had a klaxon going off and a red warning sign flashing.
• There was very little sense of time passing. Only the use of date subtitles gave you any indication of the passing of the months and years.
• The placing of Hindley and Brady as supporting characters to Dave and Maureen, while helping the filmmakers in a number of ways, also backfired somewhat. Hindley went from loving aunt and good-time girl to callous accomplice and killer with very little character development. By contrast, Brady was established as a nihilistic weirdo and psychopath almost from the off.
• Brady’s strong Scottish accent meant that in some of his speeches you were unsure if he was referring to ‘Nature’ or ‘Nietzsche’. After a repeat viewing it was still no clearer.