'Landscapers,' Dec. 6, HBO

NEW YORK (CNS) -- The fact-based crime drama "Landscapers" is something of a family affair.

Perhaps best known for her Emmy Award-winning turn as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix's acclaimed series "The Crown," Olivia Colman is one of the program's two stars while her spouse, Ed Sinclair, created and wrote the show.

Audaciously original, the exceptional four-part miniseries premieres Monday, Dec. 6, 9-10 p.m. EST on HBO. The remaining three installments will air in that time slot, concluding Dec. 27. "Landscapers" also will be available to stream on HBO Max.

Colman plays Susan Edwards, a resident of England's East Midlands. In 2014, Susan and her husband, Christopher (David Thewlis), were sentenced to a minimum of 25 years in prison for the 1998 murder of Susan's parents, Patricia and William Wycherley. As Sinclair's script informs viewers, the convicted couple maintain their innocence.

Directed by Will Sharpe, who also served as an executive producer, the duo's story has many of the hallmarks of a police procedural. Tipped off by Christopher's stepmother, Tabitha (Kathryn Hunter), in whom he had misguidedly confided while seeking her financial help, detectives grill the suspects, interview family and neighbors and revisit the scene of the slayings.

Yet the program's real focus is on the dynamics that shaped Christopher and Susan's devotion to, and love for, each other. Each deeply enamored of an individual movie star -- Gary Cooper for her, French actor Gerard Depardieu for him -- the Edwards tended to live a fantastical existence, the unreality of which shaped both their behavior and the way they reacted to their fate.

The longtime fugitives, moreover, don't seem to have minded their protracted isolation. "You see, I never cared about being shut out from the real world," Susan says, "because I never felt I was allowed to arrive here in the first place."

Addressing her husband, she continues, "You had a place in that world and then you met me." Yet Christopher is anything but resentful. "You are the person who made the world seem real to me," he tells Susan.

The skewed quality of the Edwards' relationship is matched by the innovative style with which it's depicted. Sharpe, for instance, places his actors, at times, on active soundstages and has them speak directly to the audience.

Drawing on the reliable virtuosity and versatility of his director of photography, Erik Alexander Wilson, Sharpe also alternates scenes shot in color, black-and-white or sepia tones, depending on the mood of the moment. And he manages these shifts of inflection seamlessly.

Better yet, this creativity on the part of those behind the cameras is paired with sterling performances all around, beginning with the leads.

Grown TV fans who can handle the show's restrained treatment of the gun violence inherent in its plot, the script's references to domestic and child abuse as well as regular doses of rough and crude language will, accordingly, find much to appreciate in "Landscapers." Still, this offbeat tale is certainly not for everyone.

Thus Sinclair's thoughtful and often touching screenplay succeeds in humanizing the killers in surprising ways. Yet many will wonder why the suffering of their victims is not given greater weight.

While such points can be debated, the artistic merit of the series remains undeniable. On that level, at least, adults willing to take on the grim and bizarre nature of the narrative that unfolds in "Landscapers" will find themselves amply rewarded.

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Byrd is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.