Retribution ( a 2016 BBC production originally titled “One of Us”) opens with a horrific double murder, which will tear apart the lives of two families, the Douglases and the Elliots. They are friends who live side-by-side in the isolated Scotland Highlands hamlet of Braeston. The atmospherically remote Scottish scenery is reminiscent of Nordic noir landscapes.
Events soon take an even more brutal turn when a badly injured man arrives at the Douglas family’s doorstep after his car careens off the road – a man who they soon realize, after nursing his wounds, is the killer of their adult son and daughter. The aftermath of the double murder and the discovery of the murderer among them wreaks havoc over the course of the drama for both the Douglases and the Elliots.
Each character in Retribution has his or her own layered, dark backstory. There are so many revelations and so many characters that the viewer ends up struggling with who is related to whom, and who has inflicted pain and who has suffered. The characters, vividly drawn, are vulnerable and deeply flawed. Almost everyone, whether a main character or a minor one, has some deep dark secret that propels them to immoral behavior. Not one person is “normal” or even “likable”, with few exceptions.
Everyone in both families has means, motive and opportunity, resulting in a convoluted whodunit whose perpetrator is not easily guessed until the final episode.
Retribution tightens the tension for the viewer with each episode, and close attention is essential. What backstory belongs to which character and are that character’s secrets sufficient motive for murder? This film is unusual in its portrayal of family and what they will and won’t do for each other. They all seek to protect themselves and those they are related to, even when they no longer love them.
Dynamite story but requiring more than the usual effort to solve the murders.
Availability: Netflix streaming. Subtitled captions for the deaf and hearing impaired are recommended, due to the strong Scottish brogue.