Even after she has been dismissed by the police, Janet continues her relationship with West, confused by her own motives and disrupting her own family life. Their relationship rather than his crimes is the centre of the drama. As played by Dominic West, Fred is a mixture of dull stupidity and peculiar charm, and as he slowly draws Janet deeper into the case, confiding little details to her which her professional position forbids her to pass on to the police, we witness his gradual accession of power over her. Her judgement becomes impaired, causing her to make decisions with devastating personal consequences, and losing her sense of herself as he gets deeper inside her head.
Director Jarrold keeps things low-key. This is not the kind of fairy tale take on the psychopath that often shows up in movies, in which a romanticized Hannibal Lecter seduces Clarice Starling. Although Fred is often surprisingly disarming, we keep catching tiny shifts in his eyes, the tilt of his head, which reveal just how calculated his expressions of naivety and normal emotion are; this simulation of normality, minutely gauged to appeal to the person he wants to make use of, is a critical component of the psychopathic personality. The film's strength lies in how effectively it dissects this element and shows why and how Janet falls under his influence.
In the end, Appropriate Adult isn't about the crimes themselves, but about the terrifying power Fred exerts on those who allow themselves to enter his world. With its excellent script and two fascinating performances by the leads, along with a fine supporting cast, this beautifully photographed TV drama offers a frighteningly plausible portrait of a real-life psychopath.
Inception Media's bare-bones DVD presents an excellent transfer. Unfortunately there are no extras to provide background to the case (there are at least two detailed documentaries available on YouTube which reveal just how faithfully the story has been adapted) and, unfortunately given some of the thick accents, there are no English subtitles.