Shake It Out
Heavily advertised and promoted across the UK in the past few months, A Confession feels like a show that could easily have broken the stigma surrounding ITV’s dramas as of late. With the exception of Manhunt earlier this year, all too often these crime dramas have fallen into tired cliches and trope-filled writing that’s failed to really ignite this genre. With an inspired Martin Freeman at the helm, A Confession tries and fails to break this trend, with amateurish camera work and expository heavy dialogue holding this back from being a better title.
Based on facts and extensive research from the real-life case, A Confession begins Saturday at 5.07am with Inspector Steve kissing his wife goodbye and heading out to visit his friend Ray at a local diner. Some clunky exposition later, we hear he’s being accused of sexual harassment which he interpreted as banter being misconstrued. As we soon learn, someone has gone missing in a local village. As we switch around various different characters, sombre piano chimes serenade the screen as we learn snippets of information about our characters.
News of the missing girl, Sian O’Callaghan, spreads across the community while the police interview her boyfriend, Kevin. Sharp, hard edits then follow as we jump between two different interviews before settling on Steve himself, hoping for a peaceful evening watching TV,until receiving a phone call regarding the missing persons case. After an exasperated sigh, he heads to the station and checks the CCTV footage, where the police spot Sian an hour after sending a text to Kevin.
As they look into the origin of the phone signal, they deduce that, because of the signal’s triangulation, she must have moved in a car, prompting Steve to ask the police to deploy the dogs and go on the search in the local woods. Once there, the helicopter picks up two bodies on the infrared scanners, prompting the police to investigate, where they find a tent and ask the two sleepy campers to come out, who aren’t the people they’re looking for.
As news of the search goes viral online, 50 people join the police hunt for O’Callaghan while Bob interviews a man at a house in the middle of the forest; a suspicious character who tells him he head out in the middle of the night to grab some crisps, raising alarm bells immediately. After phoning Steve, he agrees to try and get a search warrant for the house and puts him in the firing line for more questions to come. As it turns out, the man does have previous criminal convictions but none of them serious enough to link to abduction or murder.
It’s here we then receive an actual news report interspersed with the dramatic recreation of the incident as people gather and comb the woods for clues, eventually coming across a vital clue in the form of ripped underwear.
Consulting CCTV once more, the team find more clues as they see the girl disappear into the bright headlights in the distance, eventually revealing itself to be an estate car. Convinced she must have got in, Steve raises his suspicions given the car is traveling in the wrong direction to her house. Telling them they need to be 100% sure she got in the car, he thanks them for their good work and leaves.
We then cut to Monday at 9.42am as Steve is warned against having relations with Ray during his investigation. Preparing for the press conference ahead, members of the press eagerly await the family as they’re briefed by Steve on how to behave and just who will speak up. After a smooth conference, Steve learns that Ray hung himself and as he deals with the aftermath of this, one of the detectives tells him his car was an estate, and could match the description of that seen in the CCTV footage where we leave things for now.
A Confession is a frustratingly produced show despite glimmers of hope nestled in its clumsy and poorly executed technicality. With tired, ancient zoom shots and astonishingly amateurish camera work, A Confession’s cinematography actually has an adverse effect on the story itself. It’s incredibly distracting and some of the aforementioned zooms are hilariously irrelevant to the story itself, zooming in on items around houses or even clasped hands.
Having said that, Martin Freeman does well in his role and the story itself progresses at an okay pace, despite the hard cuts, but the heavy exposition and clumsy dialogue between the various players in the story feels intentionally confusing at times as the characters name drop different people and you struggle to remember who everyone is.
As far as opening episodes go, A Confession gets off to a particularly rocky one; a turbulent ride that slowly starts to settle down toward the end after a disastrous opening 20 minutes or so. There’s still time to turn it around of course but in this age of streaming giant wars, BBC blockbusters and slick cinematic productions on the small screen, A Confession is a harsh reminder of how far behind ITV are in this race and that doesn’t look like changing any time soon.
Expect A Full Season Write Up When This Season Concludes!