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As someone from Ipswich myself, I remember the Ipswich serial murders well and so felt a little uncomfortable when the BBC announced they were to make a drama about the events. What can I say? It is absolutely superb. The acting, the whole production cannot be faulted. The series clearly benefits from testimonies given by the families which writer, Stephen Butchard has incorporated into the script to give a true version of events and not a sensationalised account. 'Five Daughters' rejects the stereotype given by the media at the time of these events and portrays the victims as what they were: someone's daughter, sister, aunt etc. A very very good drama on behalf of the BBC which I think should be watched by everyone.
I was expecting another Whodunnit drama series which i didn't mind
watching as i was bored out of my skull on a Sunday night. But this was
amazing right from the word go.
Jaimie Winstone was best by far. But it was very sensitive to the Ipswich families involved and yet maintained A VERY good drama. It dealt with the motives behind prostitution very well.
In some parts i wanted to cry and others Scream at these girls for working on the streets. But it was damn well worth the watch. Its so good I think i might get it on DVD. Which would be the first mini series i ever think is worth the buy.
Spread over three nights, this BBC drama on the murders in Ipswich of
five women in the run up to Christmas 2006 made for challenging and
occasionally disturbing viewing. That time-proximity today to the
actual events only heightens the required empathy and sympathy of the
programme-makers to the subject matter and this it patently does, from
the title of the piece onwards (the original tabloid coverage of the
killings unfeelingly focused on the murdered women all being
prostitutes, dehumanising the victims at a stroke).
For me, probably like most UK residents, the two most remembered TV images from the original investigation were firstly the CCTV images of one of the young women heading into the red light district on the local train, preening herself, readying herself for her "work" and just as tragically the fact that another of the victims was actually interviewed by national TV (her back to camera, obviously) before being killed the next night.
Boldly and justifiably, the drama makes no concession to the murderer at all, concentrating wholly on the lives and desperate motivations of the women themselves. There's zero sensationalism either, with the murders themselves only suggested by the killer's car ominously approaching the victims at night-time. He's duly caught at the end, but in no sense was this a conventional crime drama.
That said, I did personally find the candid insight into the drug addicted, poverty driven lives of the prostitutes disturbing and hard to stomach at times and occasionally the dialogue tended to be, although only very occasionally, maudlin and over-ripe. The ensemble acting was laudably grounded in realism, although not wholly consistent, if anything, I appreciated more the actors playing the over-run police service than those portraying either the victims or their families.
My biggest qualm however was that the story opened with one girl already murdered with no background story at all to her situation, making me wonder if her family denied the producers access to her information. For me this did however imbalance the whole, almost reducing the drama to "four daughters" but all told, this was a commendably brave approach to a difficult subject, treating its difficult central, characters by and large with honesty and dignity, as they deserved.
After the tragic events in Ipswich in 2006 it was surprising that the
BBC commissioned a drama that is still so raw in the memory in the
people of that town. But the BBC handle it well in this sensitive 3
Five Daughters tells the story of the four of the five women that were murdered and how it affected they loved ones. Starting in October 2006, Tania Nicol, a 19-year-old working girl disappears and a reign of terrors starts in Ipswich. As this horrid event happened the drama tells the background story of the four other victims. Anneli Alderton (Jamie Winstone) was just released from prison after being hooked on heroin and prostitute. She wants to start a normal life, make amends with her mum (Juliet Aubrey) and become a hairdresser. Gemma Adams (Aisling Loftus) was a prostitute who was hooked on heroin, in a relationship with a man and a friend of Anneli who was attempting to get off the stuff. Annette Nicholls (Eva Birthistle) too was an addict, in trouble with local dealer and evicted from her home: but she reminds in her home. Finally there was Paula Clennell (Natalie Press), a prostitute who lives with a prostitute Rochelle (Ruth Negga) as they put their lives on the line with the impending threat stalking the town. With Ipswich in a state of terror one of the smallest police forces in the country to find the killer and the families are left in a state of grief and battle against the vultures from the media.
The easy way for a drama like this to go would have been to make it about the police investigate or the murderer. But luckily the writer Stephen Butchard decided to force on the victims and the families. He wrote a compelling teleplay that was deep in character depth, a three-dimensional portrayal of the victims who were all stuck in a horrid situation. He made an effort to portray the women in the most positive light possible. The police were shown at first be hard working but out of their depth. But they do come good and show how policing works. The film highlights the plight of street prostitutes with their addiction to drugs. It shows that the popular method to deal with prostitution would be to arrest and move the problem on: but that method does not work in the long term. It shows how desperate some women get and how they would risk they lives for money. It shows different views on the issue.
The director Philippa Lowthorpe is pretty standard for this type of TV drama. But she still does a good job, getting the best out of her actors: this is easily the best thing Jamie Winstone has ever done. She sets out to show a sensitive, down to Earth tale that takes a different approach to previous crime drama.
This three-part series was just broadcast by TVOntario and gave a compelling, well-acted, and probably realistic account of what happened just a few years ago in a town that I wouldn't have imagined had a "red light" area (I'm recalling a TV production of "East of Ipswich" I saw years ago). The rough and suddenly dangerous lives of street prostitutes, some quite young and even presentable-looking, who walk the streets to feed a drug habit was well-done, as were their individual backgrounds and the difficulty they had keeping off substance abuse. I remember news reports of the time saying that public and official (including Prime Minister Blair) reactions to the killings were sympathetic to the victims (reaction to the victims of the "Yorkshire Ripper" was, reportedly, less so), and here the police are portrayed as compassionate if somewhat overwhelmed by the situation. The actual killer is apprehended toward the end of the third part; there's no explanation to his motive, only that he himself frequented--and finally murdered--streetwalkers. If anything, this drama recalled "Band of Gold," set in an even rougher milieu and with some of the same actors (David Bradley and one of the police officers) involved.One note of hope: the conclusion of the drama says that some of the girls were able to straighten out and leave the dangerous streets.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
As I have confessed before, do have a bit of a 'thing' for UK police
dramas - like any little genre in which we become immersed, some are
okay, some absolutely awful - and then something like this: VERY VERY
As other reviewers here have pointed out, this is the true story of five young women who were first reported as 'missing' and then found murdered. They also happened to be heroin addicts and prostitutes.
They also happened to be much loved daughters, sisters and friends.
Over the past twenty years there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of films and television programmes made that use the death of women (and it is usually women) as the central foci for a narrative. The camera probes in the obligatory 'on the slab' Forensic Post Mortum - where the 'body' becomes distant, a silent receptacle for the rest of the cast to gravitate.
This television programme deserves 10 out of 10 for resolutely refusing to transform a serial killer narrative into the same old pattern.
We (the viewer) is never EVER allowed to forget that these young women are suffering heroin addiction, rather than some 'life style' choice, rather than some 'dim witted' woman who really should know better. It is explained to us - refusing to let us distance ourselves from the victims.
....and there are plenty of victims here. The grief and stress of the young women trying desperately to change their lives ('I want to stop'), plus the grief and stress of the families who love them. ('She's speaking in that silly accent again.') These are not stupid people, but people caught up in a kind of hell. The acting is uniformly excellent, some of the scenes are so subtle and believable.
This is the first time that a programme dealing with this subject has reduced me to tears. It made me think - long and hard - about my obsession with police drama.
Deeply moving, revealing and a complete subversion of stereotypes of 'working girls' and addiction.
Next time you hear a news report describe a murder victim as a 'prostitute' - call the station and complain. The murder victim is a woman.
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