The Old Nature Versus Nurture Debate: Crazy, Crazy Serial Killer Edition
This film raises a serious question. Oh, it's one which doesn't tend to come up, but consider for a moment Matthew Roberts. His mother hung out with some with some dicey people back in the '60s. She was raped at a party, and from that rape, she got pregnant. She never told her son any details, and it was only relatively recently when he found out his parentage. Which is odd, really, given how clear the resemblance is in places. Then again, I really doubt Matthew Roberts sat down with a copy of [i]Helter Skelter[/i] and compared his brow, his cheekbones, the set of his eyes, to those of Charles Manson. I wonder, though, if his mother did. If she thought back to that night forty and more years ago and traced the lines of it in her son's face. She gave him up for adoption, as wouldn't you, but he found her, first. She told him, but how do you tell your son something like that? How do you face it yourself?
Dee Stanton (Jemma Redgrave) must face that in her son. She tells him that his father was an Air Force pilot who was killed. She has woven a good father out of whole cloth for her son, Jamie (Somerset Prew). Her husband was tall and handsome and made her laugh. Thus Jamie resents her boyfriend, Dominic Milne (Robson Green). The conflict he has with Dominic's daughter, Bethan (Francesca Fowler), doesn't help. One night, Dominic asks Dee to marry him, and she confesses her terrible secret to him. Jamie's father is actually Paul Barker (Philip Davis), who brutally strangled four girls when Jamie was just a baby. She divorced him and went back to her maiden name and moved away, but she is still scarred by the experience and cannot bear to expose herself again. Jamie overhears this. And then one day, Morag Tait (Georgia Moffett), Bethan's friend and Jamie's obsession, is found in the woods, strangled. Her diary, supposedly containing details of an affair with an older man, is missing. Jamie is suspected, but Dominic isn't exactly in the clear, either, since he's believed to be the older man. And then Jamie is found over the unconscious body of Abi Taylor (Florence Bell).
Really, it seems for most of this that, any way it goes, it's going to be bad for Dee. Is her son a crazy, crazy serial killer like his father before him? Did her boyfriend have an affair with one of his students and then murder her to cover it up? And then we see Bethan sitting at the hospital bed of her comatose friend, torn apart by guilt. So perhaps she did it. Dee thought she was away from all this and would never have to deal with a murderer again. The blame attached to her for her husband's crimes is actually unjust; it is more possible than people believe for a spouse not to know. I can cite several real-world examples, and almost without fail, the spouse's response is the fastest divorce they can get. Dee thought she was out from under it. After all, I don't know of any evidence yet that serial killing is hereditary, so she shouldn't expect it of Jamie. On the other hand, there is that whisper of fear, and let's face it, if Dominic turns out to be the killer, that doesn't make things better for her.
And there is the issue of Jamie. I believe he is said to have been three at the time, too young to remember much. I have some memories of being three, including the birth of my younger sister, but not everyone does. I actually know someone who doesn't remember much of anything before junior high, which I find improbable but am willing to accept. It's also true that I have essentially no memories of the week my father died, and I was six at the time. Sometimes, the brain is merciful, especially when you're that young. I really do believe that Jamie wouldn't remember the arrest, the trial, the divorce, the move. And when Morag finds out about Jamie's father, she really does make things very difficult for him, so I can see not telling him. However, he's fifteen at this point and deserves to know. But how do you tell him the truth? How do you tell him you've been lying to him all along? When Jamie meets his father, how do you argue the idea that you can't entirely be trusted?
I felt somewhat cheated by the ending, but I do accept the sequence of events leading up to it. A lot of the story here depends on the behaviour of teenage girls, and you can't trust any of them. Dominic tells Bethan about Jamie's father because he must tell her something about why Dee won't marry him. (This is the link I'm least comfortable with.) Bethan tells Abi about Jamie's father because Abi can tell Bethan is upset about something, and there are some things you just have to talk to someone about. Abi tells Morag about Jamie's father because Abi's bad at keeping secrets and Morag's good at wheedling them out of people, especially people as weak-willed as Abi. Morag tells the whole school about Jamie's father because Morag is a bad person who likes the control it gives her. What no one seems to have thought out in the first few links of this is that it's conceivable, even kind of probable, that this would be how Jamie would find out about his father. It wouldn't have been what Dee intended, but secrets like that can never really be kept. As Jamie points out, all of that's on the web these days.