Photo: Mark Mainz/ITV

Liar – a tasteful discussion of rape?

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The Williams brothers’ ITV drama Liar has proven to be one of the most talked about TV shows of late. Starring Ioan Gruffudd as the charming and attractive doctor, Andrew Earlham, and Joanne Froggatt as the troubled school teacher with a seemingly dark past, the show’s premise of a potentially false rape accusation has been delivered in such a way as to majorly conflict audiences, with constant twists and cliff hangers leading viewers unsure of who to believe.

Liar’s first episode saw single-dad Andrew ask his son’s high-school teacher, Laura, out on a date following mutual attraction between the two. The juxtaposing characterisation of the pair is built from here: while Andrew is a pillar of the community, an attractive and wealthy doctor, Laura is of a more troubled nature hidden by her initial breeziness, with Froggatt’s performance conveying Laura as a character who feels the weight of the world upon their shoulders. This becomes more evident following Laura’s accusation. The date between the two is shown to start well, before a dramatic cut sees Laura wake up frantic and panicked. Rushing to her sisters, Laura reveals her fears that she has been raped.

What follows is the show tastefully, yet harrowingly realistically, portraying the aftermath of rape. Froggatt’s performance is powerful as she is taken to the clinic by her sister, who initially asks all the naturally occurring questions when someone first states they have been rape – whether Laura had been drunk and if she made her lack of consent explicitly clear, which Laura explains that she cannot clearly remember. The conflict begins with Andrew being adamant this was not the case, arguing to the police that their evening was entirely consensual. With more hints dropped about Laura’s unstable background, and with Andrew seemingly remembering the night perfectly, the episode swings dramatically between siding with each character.

It will be incredibly interesting to see how the show unfolds, with either outcome being incredibly controversial

The rest of the show is broken up by flashbacks of events of the night coming back to her, slotted among branching plot lines, such as Laura’s sister’s affair with Laura’s ex, Andrew, a police officer. While overwhelmed and incredibly shaken by the injustice of her situation, Laura posts her accusation online, publicly claiming Andrew had raped her and that his friends and family deserved to know. This element is cleverly used by the Williams brothers, displaying the tragic judgement many rape victims face upon reporting the crime.

Rape is one of the most difficult crimes to discuss on screen. While false accusations are to be taken extremely seriously, they are incredibly rare. And yet Liar portrays the ugliness of both sides of the accusations, with Laura facing extreme isolation and having to save face at her work among her colleagues, as well as being widely accused of having lied about the entire ordeal. Meanwhile Andrew faces extreme judgement from his colleagues, as well as his son, entirely innocent in the forthcoming, being bullied at school.

Liar offers a very intelligently written script in its extremely conflicting subject. The Williams brothers do a fantastic job in portraying the injustice of rape, with many real cases showing parallels with Laura’s and remaining ambiguous, leaving victims in a position to think they are not believed by their own justice system. Dependent entirely on the situation, without sufficient evidence it is entirely one person’s word against another, with Liar portraying how it can be incredibly easy to believe that there are some men who would be considered far too genuine to ever rape. It will be incredibly interesting to see how the show unfolds, with either outcome being incredibly controversial. The argument of ‘all men are capable of rape’ vs ‘women can easily make up rape accusations’ suggests the show will have to continue to handle this complex subject as tastefully as possible, in order to remain realistic and yet reach a satisfying conclusion.

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