Appearances are not as the First Seem
In May 1992, Sheila Bowler (Patricia Routledge) went to pick up her Aunt Flo (Jean Ainslie) from the care home for a scheduled stay at hers. On the way back home late at night they suffer a puncture and with the spare tyre having been removed earlier to make room to take stuff to a charity shop Sheila is forced to walk to a nearby home to get help. On her return she spots that Flo has gone and so the police are called. Much to Sheila's horror they find Aunt Flo dead in a river and that she is being is charged with her murder.
I will stop there with the synopsis as I could go on and on as "Anybody's Nightmare" is based on a true story that happened in the UK. That true story is the story of injustice as Shelia Bowler is sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Aunt Flo and served 4 years in jail before being cleared on appeal. What this movie does is walk us through the case from the hours prior to the incident, the police investigation and of course the appeal and highlighting the injustice.
Now I am a fan of these TV movies based on true stories but I have to admit that at times "Anybody's Nightmare" was a bit of a struggle. Initially that struggle comes from the casting of Patricia Routledge as Sheila because it seems like she has been asked to play her as if she was playing Hyacinth Bucket from the TV series "Keeping Up Appearances". I say initially because I discovered that it was because the real Shelia was brusque and incredulous to being a suspect that the police focused their investigation on her. As such what started wrong turns out to be a good performance especially when we watch this proud woman humiliated when she is found guilty and is sent to prison. And Routledge evolves the character nicely during the scenes which cover her time in prison.
It is not just the focus on Sheila's story which works but also what happens outside of it as in how her children had to deal with it all and keep things going. Plus we meet Angela Devlin who believes that Sheila is innocent and comes to fight her corner, not only helping Shelia but also the children.
The real struggle for me came from the portrayal of the police during the initial investigation as they are over played. Maybe the police did come across as being purposefully vindictive during questioning but the way that comes across on screen is over the top. It just becomes forced and one sided which is a shame because the rest of the movie is more thought out and balanced.
What this all boils down to is that "Anybody's Nightmare" is a movie not with out its problems but it is a thoroughly interesting one which highlights injustice but also the effect of prison on women and their families.