Anatomy of a Scandal released onto Netflix on the 15th April 2022. It is a thriller-drama, consisting of only six 45-minute episodes. It follows the fictional story of Conservative MP James Whitehouse, and his wife Sophie. It starts with an affair with an aide, but quickly takes a significantly darker turn, when James is accused of rape…by his mistress. Hannah Walton-Hughes reviews.
There is something deeply troubling about such a serious crime as rape being fictionally portrayed in an environment full of people who are supposed to be our leaders. What is that environment? Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. Add to this the fact that the accused, James Whitehouse (Rupert Friend), is portrayed as the closest friend of the fictional Prime Minister, and you get a series that is disturbing, intriguing and highly addictive.
James Whitehouse is a character whom you like one minute and fear the next
The way in which the story, and indeed the characters, become more and more complex with every episode means that viewers are surprised almost every time they press play. James Whitehouse is a character whom you like one minute and fear the next. Even my opinion of his apparently wide-eyed wife, Sophie (played by Sienna Miller), changes as the story progresses; she is an innocent person, but one who is very obviously part of the entitled world from which the majority of the characters originate.
However, my favourite character, and the actress who stands out as stella in this series, is the prosecuting lawyer, Kate Woodcraft, played by Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery. The emotions demonstrated by her character are perfectly combined with the cold and calculating nature of a barrister working on a high-profile case. And you can’t get much more high-profile than this.
The only criticism I have of this series is that it would have been effective to have more screen time with the woman who accuses James: Olivia Lytton (played by Naomi Scott). We only get to see her on the witness stand once, and there are very few scenes involving her that aren’t flashbacks. In order to be able to play detective a little more, I would have liked to understand the depth of her character to a greater extent.
The flashback scenes are haunting, with the camera angle almost slanted, emphasising the chaos and haziness preventing the characters from recalling events clearly. Drug hallucination is also portrayed by the unnatural lighting and acute sound effects. Overall, these are some of the most disturbing scenes in the whole series.
Having said this, I’m not as much of a fan of the camera work during the scenes displaying Sophie’s distress and confusion; the spinning film makes it hard to concentrate, and is disorientating for the viewers!
the topic alone is distressing, and no punches are pulled
There is obviously a very clear reason why Anatomy of a Scandal has an 18 age rating. The topic alone is distressing, and no punches are pulled with the descriptions of the alleged crime/crimes, during the trial. Further to this, the actual portrayal of the crimes is fairly graphic. Whilst sexual abuse is a very important topic to cover, it is also a highly sensitive one, so I would encourage viewers to consider this before watching.
Overall, this is an excellent series that keeps you on the edge of your seat. Courtroom dramas are always highly intriguing, and the secrets that emerge create a story full of hairpin twists and turns. Anatomy of a Scandal stays with you for a long time after you finish watching it; a thought-provoking and harrowing series.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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