The Lost Honour of Christopher Jefferies - TV review: An impressive drama but Joanna Yeates' story was not properly told

In part two we saw why it is ludicrous that Jefferies was accused at all

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

“You’re the murdering landlord,” Steve Coogan tells Christopher Jefferies (a beguilingly brilliant Jason Watkins) in the second and final instalment of Peter Morgan’s ITV1 dramatisation of the innocent Bristol teacher’s treatment as a suspect in the murder of Joanna Yeates.

Coogan’s cameo in this dark tale provides some welcome comedy as the pair wait to appear at the Leveson Inquiry. Of course Jefferies has never heard of Coogan, “light entertainment” not being his thing, exactly. “So you were accused of murder, too?” he asks, displaying boyish vulnerability, when the Alan Partridge comic describes himself as a victim.

Tonight we were shown a very different Jefferies from the wildly gesticulating and wide-eyed frightened man we saw yesterday being interrogated by police as his every quirk - his mad hairstyle and use of Elnett hairspray, the overt hand gestures and unusual manner of speech - were gobbled up and spat out again as proof of his guilt by the police and mass media.

Picking up the pieces of his life that had been shoved into evidence bags and dusted for fingerprints, we suddenly see why Jefferies - witty, intelligent, bewildered by modern life - has so many friends and why it is ludicrous that he was accused at all.

Morgan has done well to sustain the drama when actually most of it happened in last night’s episode - and when most of us have a vague idea of the story. But, it kept my attention even through lawyers wrangling defamation settlements out of newspapers, because at the heart of the dialogue was a portrait of a man who managed to survive and then to flourish in the face of terrible injustice.

The criticism that Yeates’ story wasn’t properly told hangs in the air above this otherwise impressive drama. How they might have told it sensitively, however, is not a problem I would be able to solve myself.

In the first episode Jo appeared only briefly to express a wish for a herb garden. Her death was thankfully offscreen and there was none of the mawkish lingering over violence The Fall is so famous for. But she still felt like a bit player in this story, and as Jefferies says when he wins damages from the newspapers, “it’s not appropriate...to appear triumphant when there’s tragedy at the heart of this.”

AN58435410© Carnival Film  .jpg
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies

Another misstep was the amount of time dedicated to Vincent Tabak’s story - his weak attempts to provide evidence of Jefferies’ guilt, his failure to appear contrite and the creepy normality with which his life went on in Holland. I see the parallel they were trying to make between a man who looks normal who almost got away with murder, and one whose “face fitted” a murder accusation who nearly went down for one, but it still felt crass.

Comments