If it’s true that the art of TV reflects the truth of reality, it’s possible that as 2021 draws to a close, Landscapers is the TV show that comes closer than most to nailing who we are right now. Based on a true story, and directed to crystalline smithereens by young gun Will Sharpe, Landscapers is dark, funny, brilliant, and way off-kilter. It has the finest British acting talent (Olivia Colman and David Thewlis), comedy chops and style to offset the disturbing plot, layers of cinematic references and refined sound and set design. But there are flashes of criminal and psychological severity which run a chill through this tragic, all-too-human story.
We meet Susan and Christopher Edwards in the late-90s backwater of Lille. Susan is leafing through vintage posters of the great Westerns, with whose gunslingers she obviously shares some strange affinity. Chris knows they’re running out of money, applying for jobs that his French is clearly not equal to, while assuring his beloved that all will be well. We soon realise they aren’t abroad for the memorabilia or the croissants. In desperation, Chris calls his stepmother Tabitha to ask for money, and confesses to having “done something rather silly”, burying his in-laws in their back garden. Tabitha informs the police, who persuade the couple to blithely return, caught up as they are in a febrile co-dependency somewhere between Bonnie and Clyde and Fawlty Towers.
Lucy Mangan in the Guardian finds it “heartbreaking and utterly convincing… exquisitely, tenderly and comically written. Even beyond the possibilities evoked, we sense further hinterlands, unknowns and unknowabilities.” The Telegraph’s Michael Hogan, also awarding a full five stars, is bewitched: “Photography switches to black-and-white for romantic reveries, to green or red-filtered for nightmarish flashbacks. Shots are framed from gorgeous painterly angles. The overall effect is macabre and magical, hallucinatory and heightened.” Only Carol Midgley writing in The Times is “a tad discomfited… It treated the real-life murders of an elderly couple, who were buried in their own back garden for 15 years, as a bit of lark, a comedy jape with sweary buffoon detectives from Nottinghamshire.” Must concurs, withholding a 9, while relishing one of the best TV shows of a troubled year. First shown December 2021.