"The lazy praise about an actor who is good in everything they do is to say, 'I would watch them read the phone book,'" says Kevin Fallon of the Oscar- and Emmy-winning actress' performance in HBO's true-crime limited series. "It’s dumb. And also not true. You wouldn’t watch someone read the phone book. It’s a phone book! It would be boring as hell, no matter who it was. Also, do phone books even exist anymore? Anyway, let’s find one. Because, despite everything I just said, I would watch Olivia Colman read the phone book. (Someone find a phone book!) I would watch Olivia Colman say 'I pooed in a cupboard!' with verve...This is all to say that Olivia Colman is always good. Always captivating. Always doing something that surprises you entirely, but is also entirely perfect. Which is exactly what she does in Landscapers...I don’t have to tell you that she is astonishing in it. Maybe I don’t even have to tell you how she is astonishing in it is surprising. And yet, here we are, once again gobsmacked by her performance in something, and how she took it in a direction we could never have imagined or expected, and then, again, blew us away. In Landscapers, she plays a British housewife who claims that she heard her mother shoot and kill her father, and then killed her mother while being provoked. Her husband then helped her bury the bodies and, more than a decade later, they were found out. (Based on a true story!) Reading that description, you obviously can’t know what to expect from a performance like this. But I never imagined the one that Colman gives. She has an uncanny way of flitting between heartbreaking and hilarious with a dexterity that should be studied, especially because the polar points of that range never for a second read as anything but human and grounded. The simple act of being a human being is very funny, just as it is absolutely horrifying and profound. She taps into the extremes of that existence so naturally that it reminds you how regular it is to skate between them."
One particularly effective choice in Landscapers is ending each episode with a recap built from actual news footage: "No matter how lost you get in Susan and Christopher’s love story, the familiar framing from real reporters helps you step back outside the show’s subjective portrayal," says Ben Travers. "(There aren’t enough superlatives to properly acclaim Thewlis and Colman, who somehow smash through every fourth-wall break without losing the tether to their characters.) The juxtaposition of the preceding episode and its closing credits also forces you to recognize the significant impact of framing in general, whether it’s done by the police, the media, or a filmmaker. The HBO series is a romance, where both halves of the lead couple vow to protect each other at all costs and then do exactly that, no matter how difficult. The reported story is simpler: Susan and Christopher just needed money, and killing her parents was the quickest way to get it. Landscapers proves both sides can be true, even if the justice system only has room for one."
Landscapers is written to benefit David Thewlis more than Olivia Colman: "If Landscapers doesn’t, in the end, entirely fulfill the promise of (director Will) Sharpe’s visual wizardry, it’s down to the screenplay by (Ed) Sinclair, who is also Colman’s husband and producing partner," says Mike Hale. "It doesn’t match the inventiveness of the direction, and it’s also more murky (and sentimental) than it needs to be about Susan’s true nature, which slightly dampens Colman’s performance. She spends most of the series playing things down the middle, and she’s only able to break out her fierce, splendid technique in a few scenes."
Landscapers creator Ed Sinclair on his approach that may make the killers look sympathetic: Because of its quirky elements, Landscapers "is less a true-crime dramatization than a fantastical exploration of an emotionally fragile criminal whose misdeeds appear to have been driven by a sense of her own victimization," says The New York Times' Tobias Grey. "If this approach creates a surprising amount of sympathy for convicted murders, Sinclair also sees it as a valid way to plumb the mysteries of human motivation. He attempted to deepen his understanding of the couple by establishing a correspondence with Susan and Christopher through Susan’s solicitor, Douglas Hylton, who is played in the series, a coproduction of HBO and Britain’s Sky by the British actor Dipo Ola." Sinclair adds: “One of the things I discussed in my first letter to Susan was that there were some things in this story that were hard to believe and frankly comical, and she agreed. She was definitely aware of that.” Sinclair says the letters allowed him to add texture to the couple's back story, but there was no discussion about the crime.