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October 14, 2017

Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983

by Franz Patrick


Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983 (2009)
★★ / ★★★★

Two girls have gone missing in 1969 and 1972 and a third child is found dead in 1974. In 1983, Hazel Atkins is taken by the same murderer which makes her the most recent victim. Detective Maurice Jobson (David Morrissey) is assigned to the Atkins case but he struggles to remain focused due to the guilt that plagues him. In the past, he has been involved with corruption and it is finally catching up with him. Meanwhile, John Piggott (Mark Addy), a solicitor, meets with a convict, Myshkin (Daniel Mays), who confessed to the aforementioned kidnappings and murder but is now wishing for an appeal.

The final chapter of the “Red Riding Trilogy,” collectively based on David Peace’s novel, “Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983” moves at a brisk pace, certainly faster than its predecessors, but something is lost along the way because the big revelations feel rushed and there is not enough detective work shown on screen for us to be able to connect the dots without relying on the screenplay to spoon-feed information. For a heartbreaking and scary case about child abduction and murders, it is not at all an engaging experience—passable but not a work that stands out even among the trilogy.

The primitive interrogation techniques are well-shot. I felt like I was in that dark room as cops force confessions out of suspects. They do it because they feel pressure to get answers from their superiors and the media. The picture does a good job in communicating that the cops believe what they are doing what is right—actions that will lead to the truth. On the contrary, the case ends up becoming more complicated, unnecessarily so, due to false confessions. These confessions are akin to desperate gasps of air of a drowning person. It is unsettling to watch but you cannot help but observe it all unfold.

Some facts within the investigation remain vague which leaves room for doubt and unanswered questions. Perhaps this might not have been a problem if the material avoided to offer straightforward answers during the final fifteen minutes. One that bothered me especially is the medium (Saskia Reeves) who claims to see the dead girls. From its predecessors, it is shown that the crimes have been well-documented in the papers. If so, why does Jobson entertain the idea that Ms. Wymer can communicate with spirits? If Jobson were written smart, he should have recognized that a lot of what she claims to have learned most likely have come from old newspaper articles. In addition, the medium’s histrionics are phony. “She’s suffocating! It’s dark!,” she wails.

Subplots are introduced but each one does not get enough time to develop. Two of the most underdeveloped subplots involve the past of Piggott’s father which casts a shadow on the son’s work and a gloomy young man (Robert Sheehan) constantly looking out the window of trains. They are integral to the final act but it is off-putting that these strands seem to have thrown into the pot in the last second before being served to us. Not enough time has passed for their flavor to be released.

“Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983,” directed by Anand Tucker and based on the screenplay by Tony Grisoni, is not a terribly constructed mystery-thriller, though at times it is convoluted, but it neither demands our attention nor does it dare us to seek answers of our own. Even if seen through eyes and brain on auto-pilot, the rewards remain few and far between.

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