Ellie and Joe Farrelly are a busy couple bringing up a teenage son while running a large building company. When they suddenly have twins, a stranger comes into their life at just the time when they need help the most.
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After her 40th birthday party, Ellie and Joe celebrate on the kitchen table. Nine months later, they're the parents of twins. Ellie struggles to cope at home and Joe misses her presence in the office of the family construction firm. A chance encounter with a sympathetic stranger in the supermarket leads to a chilling and disturbing tale of manipulation and psychosis.
A lot better than a UK "Hand that Rocks the Cradle"
There are certain elements to "The Kindness of Strangers" that betray it's a made-for-television (Granada) production. The direction is pretty pedestrian. The pacing of the story for the first half-hour is a bit sluggish (it aired as a two-parter so it had a time requirement).
It's a familiar set-up: harried professional builders Ellie and Joe Farrelly stumble into birthing twin girls after a random sex romp, then realize quickly it's impacting their everyday life and marriage to the extent that they're beginning to rapidly fray at the edges. Enter The Stranger Fiona Charters (Hermione Norris) a pretty blonde who may or may not be keeping something sinister up her past and her sleeve. She's the friend Ellie never had, the secretary Joe needs at the sites each day, the nanny who's always available and eager to help.
Sounds a bit dull and predictable, right? A bit too "Hand that Rocks the Cradle," maybe? Well, that's what you'd think, and you'd be wrong, mostly due to Kate O'Riorden's firecracker script.
The story is so subtle to start (and the performances by Norris and Julie Graham as Ellie are so brilliant), that you're not really sure you have the story nailed one hour into it. Isn't Ellie supposed to be so much more gullible? Isn't Fiona supposed to be so much more hysterically C-R-A-Z-Y? And look, now they're friends again...but WAIT...!
It's this kind of switching and baiting that makes this outing so much fun to watch. It never feels that over-the-top though it's definitely treading into soap opera-Lifetime Network territory. It's a solid script done well by solid actors and worth a tightened up theatrical remake some day --- but this will do more than adequately in the meantime.
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