I’m now on holidays, a wonderful stretch of seven weeks that every person who works in a school eagerly looks forward to, pretty much from February on. It’s one of the many reasons why I technically, have never left school. As well as reading, reading, and more reading, I also like to watch a few TV series. I usually ‘save’ the ones I’ve marked to watch for this time of the year, when I can get away with a mini binge…or two. The first of my holiday viewing has been Liar, aired recently in Australia, a British crime/psychological drama. I do love British television, I have to admit, and when I saw this advertised, there was no way I was going to miss it. Here’s a brief synopsis for those who haven’t encountered Liar:
Created and written by BAFTA- and Golden Globe-nominated producers and screenwriters Harry and Jack Williams, and featuring “Downton Abbey” star Joanne Froggatt and “Fantastic Four” actor Ioan Guffard, “Liar” tells the story of two people whose initial attraction leads to far-reaching consequences for them and their friends and families. Laura Nielson, a smart and capable teacher in the middle of a breakup, is set up on a date with recently widowed surgeon Andrew Earlham. However, the day after it is apparent that something has gone wrong, and the subsequent fallout rapidly spirals out of control, exposing the power of truth, deception and trust.
Now, I’ve been a long time fan of Ioan Guffard, ever since Great Expectations many years ago. I’ve seen him in other movies and TV shows over the years and I’ve always enjoyed his performances. He’s also delightfully handsome and charismatic. And who in the world didn’t love Joanne Froggatt when she was in Downton? Exactly! It’s very evident though, right from the first episode of Liar, that Joanne Froggatt offers so much more as an actress than just her Downton reputation. And Ioan Guffard. Well, he really is an incredible actor. I liken this role of his to that of Jamie Dornan in The Fall. Except Ioan’s character of Andrew Earlham is a shade more manipulative and a lot more sophisticated and charismatic. Liar is very well cast, with its leads as well as its supporting actors.
But a cast can only do so much. A successful television series needs to have a story that will carry it through the episodes. And this is exactly where Liar trumps the rest. This story, written by brothers, Harry and Jack Williams, is nothing short of spectacular. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, that happens in this show happens for a reason. So much more than a “he says/she says”, this story is sophisticated, chilling, and terribly brilliant. Emotionally charged, I went from horrified to terrified to deeply saddened within every episode. It’s an excellent example of plot and the importance of knowing your story inside out, from beginning to end. From a writer’s perspective, Liar is a visual masterclass in storytelling.
Liar made me uncomfortable repeatedly while watching, the parallels with society so evident: the victim shaming; the imbalance of power between men and women when it comes to proving you have had a crime committed against you; the doubt placed on women when evidence is lacking; the hero worship a handsome and charismatic man can induce with the right amount of manipulation and sophistication. The hysterical woman syndrome has never been so well depicted.
What I truly loved about this series is how Laura Nielson just never gives up. While everbody else is telling her to move on and accept what has happened, to stop obsessing over it, she refuses. She digs her heels in and refuses to bear the shame and the blame. She refuses to be a victim and sets out to prove that you can’t get away with something just because you’re handsome, clever, and powerful. This line, it’s so empowering:
“You’re just a man, Andrew. And I am not afraid of you.”
She was afraid, of course, but there was no way she was going to let him know it. And there was no way she was going to let her fear dominate her.
Liar is a truly gripping psychological thriller with outstanding performances and a highly relevant and plausible story. If you’ve got a spare five hours or so, I’d highly recommend watching Liar as a means of filling them.