Review by C.J. Bunce

We’re always on the lookout for the next great British/Irish/Scottish/UK police procedural or mystery series like Life on Mars or Ashes to Ashes, Hinterland or Shetland, Marchlands or Lightfields, Zen or Quirke, or, of course, Sherlock.  The 2019 British series A Confession is streaming on BritBox in the U.S. via Amazon, and it may not be as good as any of these, but it does eclipse recent series like Dublin Murders, The Silence, The Five, The Missing, Thirteen, Broadchurch, and CollateralIt is based on the real-life story of the murders of two women in 2003 and 2011, so the drama is dark and real.  And it offers up a cast of familiar genre actors that will make you want to take a look.

At six episodes it is easy to binge the entire 4.5 hour series in one sitting.  That’s due to Sherlock and The Hobbit star Martin Freeman, who we get to see in a lead role that we’re not already familiar with.  He plays a detective who may or may not have skirted the rule of law in the UK by obtaining a confession to two murders.  He’s joined by a stunningly impressive Imelda Staunton (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Shakespeare in Love), who plays the mother of one of the victims who fought in real life to change the laws on criminal evidence in the UK and defended the actions of Martin’s detective.

Siobhan Finneran (Doctor Who) plays the mother of the other victim, whose husband, played by Derek Riddell (Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, Shetland), tends to get in the way of things.  Fans of Shaun of the Dead will be happy to see that film’s co-star Kate Ashfield, who plays the detective’s wife.  You might recall Freeman had a brief appearance with Ashfield in Shaun of the Dead.

The true nature of the events and struggle between intent of the law and application may make this less enjoyable for some.  It delves into UK criminal procedure, which also may a turn-off to some viewers.  Stylistically the series, directed by Paul Andrew Williams (Broadchurch) has an off-putting habit of carrying the camera haphazardly to convey realism.  That works in some shows, but is less artfully done here.

Still, the acting makes it worth the time–it’s one of Freeman’s best performances.  Check out A Confession, streaming now here on BritBox via Amazon.