What a bizarre film this was, and one that left me with a rather unpleasant taste in my mouth, metaphorically speaking.
First, I was uncomfortable watching anything that Gadd – aka Gary Glitter – might profit from, even if that profit was only some kind of vicarious pride in the fact that his repugnant story was being given attention.
Secondly, I am an advocate of the death penalty, and though this isn’t the right forum in which to go into an in-depth discussion of that point, it was of course the point of this film. But in making the point, I suspect the portrayal of a blood thirsty Britain was OTT.
I don’t believe for a minute that we’d all be queuing up outside a prison with inappropriate t-shirts and a carnival atmosphere ensuing, leading to violent altercations. It was a bias put on the film that was clearly intended to invoke repulsion, and therefore was far too unsubtle to be worthy of a great deal of debate.
I also didn’t feel at ease with the Soham murders being brought into this film; it all just felt inappropriate. To sensationalise or otherwise ‘use’ that horrific crime as part of a work of fiction just smacks of gravy-training.
I see no reason why Rob Coldstream, the writer and director of the piece, couldn’t have used fictional cases. Yes of course we would most likely have been left with the assumption that he’d based his fiction on that hideous reality, but somehow, to even mention Jessica and Holly was demeaning to their memory.
The appearances of – especially – Ann Widdecombe, Miranda Sawyer and Garry Bushell playing fictional versions of themselves surprised me. As I said, especially Widdecombe because her real-life political career and persona added a gravitas to her role which belied the cheap-shot nature of the overall production.
The one redeeming feature in an otherwise page-three like sensationalism mongering film was Hilton McRae’s performance as Gadd. He was so convincing, I hated him on sight. And what an amazing actor; his portrayal of Gadd’s breakdown was so believable, it made me feel quite nauseous.
Everything about his performance seemed genuinely authentic, and he parlayed the deviance and smugness of the man perfectly with just a look. He was really the only redeeming factor in this film.
The long and tedious legal references were unnecessary in the context. After all, why did we need to know about fictitious extradition proceedings? If we’re supposed to accept that this was a Britain where out and out barbarism was the norm, why not just launch straight into the story at hand rather than dragging it out with that pointless back-story?
Overall, this film was a heavy-handed and prejudiced portrayal of a hypothetical scenario which didn’t allow us to form our own opinions of the subject matter. Rather, it tried to force us to accept a certain set of ‘givens’ that were far from it. And if those of us who advocate a return of the death penalty had literally accepted those ‘givens’, I suspect we were being asked to hold a mirror up to ourselves and dislike what we see.
Well, it didn’t work. Personally, I still believe that it’s inherently wrong that people like Ian Huntley still get to breathe while his victims don’t. I still believe we shouldn’t be asked to keep the likes of Brady, Hindley, Sutcliffe and Roy Whiting fed and watered. And I still believe that there can be no ‘rehabilitation’ for paedophiles.
People like Gadd don’t change their sexual preferences anymore than you or I could if asked to suddenly become gay or straight when our natural inclination is otherwise. The same applies to paedophiles in my opinion and frankly, stomach churning though the death scenes may have been, I’d personally volunteer to pull the lever that opened that trap door.
I’d then go home and sleep perfectly well. I wouldn’t need to get a T-shirt made, I wouldn’t buy a mix track of Gadd’s words and music and I wouldn’t celebrate his death. But I’d make good and sure he could never hurt a child again.
So did this film do what it set out to do? In many ways, yes I suspect it did. It’s going to cause controversy and debate, though not to the extent I think the execs at Channel 4 had hoped it would.