Falling

The gardener of good and evil - The Guardian; March 7, 2005; Rupert Smith

Michael Kitchen's eyes are probably the most expressive organs ever seen on a TV screen, and given some of the organs flailing around elsewhere in the weekend schedules that's saying something. He used his ice-blues to extraordinary effect in Falling (Sunday, ITV1), a single drama so good that I began to wonder if I hadn't actually gone to the cinema without noticing it. Adapted by Andrew Davies from the novel by Elizabeth Jane Howard, it was a creepy story of late-flowering love that turned, horribly but plausibly, into a brutal folie deux.

Kitchen played Henry Kent, a gorgeous gardener in a flat cap and wellies who, unsurprisingly, got Penelope Wilton's reclusive writer all of a flutter in her rainsoaked Yorkshire retreat. "In a way I rather fancy him," mused Wilton's Daisy, a study in self-delusion, before tumbling for his lies and tumbling into bed. Kent was, she conceded, "wonderful at sex", but bloody awful at everything else, having left a trail of broken marriages, hearts and pelvises in his wake. Daisy found out - almost too late - that kindly, twinkling sexpot Henry was an abusive conman with a taste for battery. The confrontation scene, which formed the final act of Davies's drama, was understated in a beautifully English way - but far more explosive, with its constant threat of barely restrained violence, than anything the murderous soaps have to offer. Kitchen switched from pleading lover (nice crinkles round the lower corners of the eyelids) to brutal bully (blank eyes like blue poached eggs) in a second's twitch.

Davies used his favourite device of to-camera address in order to draw us into Kent's vile world, and did it so effectively that he still seemed satanically attractive even after the reveal. This gave meaning to Wilton's final musings on the nature of love and attraction, and left a feeling of queasy exhilaration in its aftermath. Falling felt bracingly out of place in the Sunday night slot, straight after The Royal; it was seductive, scary and had a real whiff of sulphur about it. Kent's seething violence seeped out in sudden flashes; "I'm not your fucking servant," he snarled at one point. I sensed a mass slopping of cocoa across the viewing nation.