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Compulsion - ITV1


Review by Lizzie Guilfoyle

WITH Ray Winstone (Sweeney Todd, Henry VIII) and Parminder Nagra (ER) heading the cast of ITV’s May Day Bank Holiday drama, Compulsion, my expectations were high. Sadly, I was sorely disappointed.

Based loosely on the Jacobean tragedy, The Changeling, this 21st century update focuses on Anjika (Nagra), the beautiful but spoilt daughter of a rich Indian businessman.

Fresh out of university and with an English boyfriend in tow, Anjika doesn’t take kindly to the idea of an arranged marriage. Enter Flowers (Winstone), the family chauffeur who, clearly obsessed with his employer’s rebellious daughter, offers her a solution. It does, however, come with a condition – that she spends the night with him or, if you prefer, has sex with him.

Sound familiar? There are, as you’ve no doubt noticed, echoes of Indecent Proposal but, and I mean no disrespect to Winstone who’s made up to look like the sleazey scumbag he’s portraying, Flowers is certainly no John Gage (here think Robert Redford). Which begs the question: why, after being initially repulsed by him, does Anjika keep going back for more? The words that keep popping into my head are technique and maturity but I could be wrong, for although there’s mention of a wife, Flowers obviously enjoys the company of prostitutes. Besides, he’s more Quasimodo than Adonis so it really is beyond my comprehension.

Here though, all credit must go to Winstone for portraying an obsessed middle-aged man so convincingly. Similarly, Nagra does well in a role far removed from her ER persona, Neela. It’s just a pity that I was unable to muster even an ounce of sympathy for either character and neither cared nor lamented what became of them.

However, the fine performances of Winstone and Nagra are about the only positive thing I can say about this dire production. The plot is somewhat predictable and includes both murder and drug dealing. There’s even a rape thrown in for good measure. Not something I like to see portrayed on screen, it’s inclusion here, though necessarily part of an absurd storyline, certainly makes for uncomfortable viewing.

In a nutshell – I can think of far better ways to spend a Bank Holiday evening.

Compulsion is released on DVD on May 11, 2009.