“Landscapers” review: Olivia Colman and David Thewlis star in HBO’s Mansfield Murders miniseries

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The project is built around the bizarre case of Chris and Susan Edwards, who were convicted in 2014 of murdering her parents and having their bodies buried in their backyard. The story opens, somewhat confusing, somewhere beyond the middle with the two on the loose, having fled to France, as they negotiate with investigators over a possible return to England as police focus on what is known as the Mansfield Murders. .

Susan de Colman has an airy, almost unreal quality, relying on her husband Chris (Thewlis) and saying at one point, “He’s practical, because I’m not.”

What they share, as documented via the current setting and black-and-white flashbacks, is a love of old movies and American westerns in particular, with strong, silent types like Gary Cooper sporting onscreen. (They also share an affection for French actor Gérard Depardieu, writing him fan letters.)

So far so good, but as writer Ed Sinclair and director Will Sharpe explained (“The Electric Life of Louis Wain”), “Landscapers” indulges in too many whimsical soarings, including elaborate reconstructions of their testimony catching the audience both in their not entirely convincing explanations as well as in their heads.

Turns out the most effective element of the miniseries comes at the end of each episode, airing news clips that reinforce just how much this bizarre love story sticks to reality, including the fact that Chris and Susan (who, let’s note, continued to profess their innocence) did all they could to convince people that her parents were still alive while spending their money on Hollywood memorabilia.

“Unless one of you tells us, we’ll never know exactly what happened,” the cops advise, stressing the puzzling nature of the crime.

In addition to “The Crown,” Colman (Oscar winner for “The Favorite”) is receiving praise for her role in the upcoming Netflix movie “The Lost Daughter,” so HBO is probably happy to ride those tails. By this measure, “Paysagistes” is quite watchable, but is mistaken in taking a case that required few dramatic embellishments and then proceeding anyway.

“Landscapers” will air Dec. 6 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia.


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