|Written by||Neil McKay|
|Directed by||Julian Jarrold|
|Theme music composer||Dan Jones|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of episodes||2|
|Running time||140 min.|
|Original network||ITV, STV, UTV|
|Original release||4 September 2011 – 11 September 2011|
Appropriate Adult is a 2011 British television film, first shown on ITV in two 90-minute parts on 4 and 11 September 2011. It stars Dominic West, Emily Watson, and Monica Dolan. It is based on the true story of Gloucester serial killer Fred West (no relation to the actor) and his wife Rosemary West. It focuses on the events between the Wests' arrests in 1994 and Fred's suicide in Birmingham's Winson Green Prison on New Year's Day 1995.
The film was named after the role of Janet Leach as an "appropriate adult" during the questioning of Fred West. The senior investigator wanted to ensure that there could be no suggestion that West did not understand any part of the process, so arrangements were made so that he had an "appropriate adult" present to ensure this at all times.
- Dominic West as Fred West
- Emily Watson as Janet Leach
- Monica Dolan as Rose West
- Robert Glenister as Detective Superintendent John Bennett
- Sylvestra Le Touzel as Detective Constable Hazel Savage
- Samuel Roukin as Detective Constable Darren Law
- Anthony Flanagan as Mike
- Stanley Townsend as Syd Young
- Gerard Horan as Howard Ogden
- Seline Hizli as Mae West
- James McArdle as Stephen West
- Robert Whitelock as Detective Constable Carl Kempinsky
- Jasper Jacob as Brian Leveson QC
- Jack Fortune as Richard Ferguson QC
- Vincent Brimble as Mr Justice Mantell
- Rupert Simonian as Josh Leach
The film was directed by Julian Jarrold and written by Neil McKay. The production was headed by ITV executive producer Jeff Pope, who considered it as the concluding feature in a trilogy of films about the most notorious British murder cases of the past century (the previous films being This Is Personal: The Hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper and See No Evil: The Moors Murders, which won multiple awards).
Co-producer Kwadjo Dajan researched and developed the project over four years after establishing contact with Janet Leach and consulting with Gloucestershire Constabulary. The drama was filmed over seven weeks in Manchester.
Dominic West's physical resemblance to West was noted during filming. Fred West's daughter Mae West said he "captured the evil essence of him – his character, his mannerisms, even his gait". Janet Leach found it difficult to approach Dominic West in character on set because he was so convincing that it took her back seventeen years to her work with the murderer.
The first episode (of two) was met with positive reviews after it was broadcast on 4 September 2011. Sam Wollaston from The Guardian described it as "beautifully done, not sensational or hysterical". A later article by Phil Hogan in The Observer and The Guardian described Dominic West's performance as "worryingly close" but said
"even with a set of chipped teeth, bad jumper choices and a rattling West Country burr, handsome Dominic couldn't quite conjure the Fred familiar from his demonic police mug shot. What he did conjure, in one impressively seamless personality, were the strange warring traits of a man cheerfully sane and yet not quite there – helpful but manipulative, confiding but controlling, troubled but carefree, a composite that perfectly explained why the police wanted the presence of an 'appropriate adult'".
Hogan was also impressed with Monica Dolan's highly convincing performance as Rosemary, which he described as "literally spitting-mad".
Andrew Billen from The Times described it as "mesmerising and inspired", while Matt Bayliss of The Daily Express described it as "sensitively written, ferociously acted and dealing with a true and powerful subject". It has been tipped as a multiple award-winning drama. However, the Daily Mail described it as one which "deeply divided opinion between those who have hailed it a dramatic tour de force, and a compelling insight into the nature of evil, and those who accuse it of trampling on the graves of Fred West's victims". The family of Fred West and the son of Janet Leach condemned the series. Fred West's daughter Anne-Marie Davis was disgusted that the film had been made and said it would be deeply traumatic bringing back the memories and would cause "unimaginable distress." ITV claims that several other daughters of the Wests and the families of the victims spoke more positively about the series after having viewed it.
Detective Superintendent Bennett
Following its broadcast, the programme was also criticised by retired Gloucestershire Detective Superintendent John Bennett who said,
"the series went far beyond any justifiable claims of 'dramatic licence' and 'simplification' by creating dialogue and scenes which did not take place at all, these just sensationalising the story and not furthering it, wrongly depicting how Janet Leach was treated and her involvement, giving her a kudos she far from deserves".
He further said that
"this series painting her as a 'victim' and wrongly portraying the sequence of events and her contact with and payment by the Mirror Group whilst grossly exaggerating her involvement is an insult to the true victims, their families, which very much includes the extended family of the Wests, the witnesses who so courageously gave evidence, the investigating team, and its professionalism, also the many professionals and others who worked so hard to unravel the horrific crimes and bring the Wests and others to justice".
However, he concurred that "the mannerisms and psyche of Frederick West captured and enacted by Dominic West and Monica Dolan of Rosemary West are hauntingly accurate".
In response to Bennett's statement, ITV's Janice Troup issued the following response:
We took the legitimate editorial decision to focus our drama on the largely untold story of how an ordinary mother and housewife, Janet Leach, became involved in one of Britain's most notorious murder investigations when she took on the role of Fred West's 'appropriate adult'. This is a drama not a documentary and the film has a caption at the start telling viewers that some scenes are created for purposes of dramatisation.
We have not attempted to whitewash Janet - her portrayal in the drama is subtle and balanced, and shows an ordinary woman subjected to an extraordinary situation. We depict her decision to accept the newspaper deal to sell her story, and how that was exposed in court during the trial of Rosemary West, as well as showing that her motivation was not simply financial.
We met former Detective Superintendent John Bennett on several occasions to discuss the making of a factual drama based around the case of Fred and Rosemary West. Not only because he had led the police investigation, but also because, like others involved in the case, he had subsequently written a book about it.
He showed some interest in acting as a paid consultant on the project but we didn't pursue that option. We took the legitimate editorial decision to focus our drama on Janet Leach.
It is certainly not ITV's wish to cause distress to the families of the Wests' victims, or their children. Two of Fred and Rosemary West's daughters have praised the drama and from those of the victim's families still contactable we have only received positive comments.
The film neither recreates the crimes, nor attempts a definitive psychological analysis of Fred and Rosemary West. Like This Is Personal and See No Evil it is about the effect of the crimes, rather than crimes themselves. Whereas those earlier dramas focused variously on the police, the victims and their families, and the families of the murderers this one places at its centre a woman who was almost an accidental witness to the uncovering of what happened at 25 Cromwell Street.
- "TV portrayal of killer leaves daughter scared". Yahoo!. Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 3 July 2015.
- Hogan, Phil (11 September 2011). "Rewind TV: Appropriate Adult; Horizon: Are You Good or Evil?; Reel History of Britain". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 12 September 2011.
- Bracchi, Paul; Wright, Stephen (10 September 2011). "A very inappropriate drama: Why police can never forgive serial killer Fred West's confidante whose story is being told on TV". London: Daily Mail. Retrieved 11 September 2011.
- "'It will cause unimaginable distress': Fred West's daughter condemns ITV drama about the serial killer". London: Daily Mail. 30 March 2011. Retrieved 25 August 2011.
- "ITV Appropriate Adult: West detective John Bennett speaks out". This is Gloucestershire. Retrieved 13 September 2011.