This unimaginative adaptation of Ruth Rendell's dark-edged psychological thriller, set in and around London, straightens out most of her subtle twists and kinks, dissipating tension and interest apace. Bacall, loony mom of Shaver (an American writer resident in Hampstead), steals a council estate kid to replace the divorced Shaver's recently deceased child. Shaver, initially horrified, is soon on the horns of a dilemma as the catatonic boy (his back a railway map of weals and lacerations) reawakens her maternal instincts. The abduction is soon broadcast news; a crazy chauffeur (Firth) and enamoured doctor friend (Stoddard) pitch in with their respective versions of sweet-and-sour emotional blackmail. The result is on the whole pleasureless, uninvolving, and visually dull; it reflects little of Rendell's delicious and implicating sense of (a)moral relativism and distaste. Paul McGann, as the stolen child's contemptuous working class father, makes a stab at a performance, but is hauled away into implausibility and gun-toting mania.
Tree of Hands
Cast and crew