Jason Watkins is turning rapidly into not only a much sought after commodity, but also an incredibly flexible and adaptable first rate British actor. He seems to be able to switch with ease between serious drama, sitcom, period pieces and thrillers.

I first became aware of him in the Sky comedy Trollied, were he plays an incompetent lily-livered manager of a supermarket, like, but executed with different emphasis, Bruce Forsyth and Leonard Rossiter before him! Since then I’ve seen him pop up in all manner of TV and film, making him clearly a very busy chap. More comedy in Hold the Sunset with John Cleese, Mr Humphries in Are You Being Served, Psychoville - and even popping up in Miranda and in the '80's EastEnders!

In this 2014 made-for-TV 2-part mini-series (presented here on Netflix as one), he plays the central figure in a story based on facts in 2010 about a retired university teacher living in Bristol who is accused of the murder of one of his tenants. He is portrayed in this docu-drama as an eccentric academic with little social awareness, tolerance of those around him who are not as well educated as he, rude, camp and generally objectionable person to be around. The kind of person most would cross the street to avoid. His appearance was as ancient as his classic books and assumptions were made about his likely involvement in the case based on shallow fascia.

The investigating police hound him, arrest him, detain him and the press, when they get their teeth into it, falsely publish all sorts of untrue information about him, chasing copy, hot stories and gossip to sell their papers. The story remains very much about him, but also about the police and media’s role in wrecking his life, with no substance.

Jason Watkins turns his hand to this role incredibly well. He becomes this socially inept odd-ball with such ease, it seems. He embraces the role so very convincingly. The mannerisms, the gait, the facial expressions, the eye and hand movements - it’s all very well executed. I do think this is the best piece of acting I’ve seen him perform and it says an awful lot about his flexibility.

He is surrounded by British actors of varying fame and ability, from the excellent but underused Shaun Parkes, the convincing Joe Sims in the role of the Dutchman to the supporting Melissa Chapman and many more. The story is engaging as the audience wants to get on his side, but find themselves holding distance as the central figure is decidedly unpleasant.

What becomes apparent as events unfold, is the devastating impact such an event can cause on somebody’s innocent life, just because they are different to most ‘ordinary’ folk. How the police practices can turn somebody’s world upside down in pursuit of the truth, both psychologically and physically - you almost weep when Jefferies returns to his home to re-start his life at the state it’s been left in - and how the media, it seems, at any cost, will unscrupulously hound people, make up lies and bend the truth in order to sell their product without regard for the trail of destruction they leave behind.

It’s well worth viewing, if for nothing else, to see Watkins turn his hand to another role with such aplomb. Recommended for those not looking for thrills and chills, but rather a very well executed intelligent drama based in truth.
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