“The minute one meets anyone, one makes judgements.”
The Jury is a made-for-British-television 6-part mini-series that focuses on a high profile murder case. A teenage Sikh schoolboy Duvinder Singh (Sonnell Dadral) is accused of brutally murdering a schoolmate with a sword. While Duvinder admits hating the victim and planning to kill him, he argues that he’s innocent–even though he stole the sword and intended to use it. It’s a weak defence at best. The case gets plenty of media attention due to the ages of the victim and the accused killer, the race issue, and the viciousness of the crime.
As the title suggests, the film focuses on the jury–not just the crime, and it’s an unusual yet fascinating focus. The script concentrates on several members of the jury–Marcia (Nina Sosyana)–a young black woman, Peter (Michael Maloney)–a Jewish man who is thrilled to serve as part of a murder jury, Jeremy (Nicholas Farrell)–a man who still hasn’t recuperated from losing his home and savings due to faulty investment advice, Rose (Helen McCrory)–an unhappily married woman, Johnny Donne (Gerard Butler in a marvelous performance)–a recovering alcoholic, Elsie Beamish (Sylvia Sims)–a lonely catholic woman, and a seminary student who’s agonizing over his decision whether or not to enter the priesthood.
The Jury is extremely well constructed. As various witnesses are called to testify for the prosecution and for the defence, the case is pieced together, and one cannot help but feel part of the jury–in an off-screen sort of way. For example, in one scene Duvinder testifies in his defense, and it’s easy to be swayed by his testimony. However, shortly thereafter, the prosecution cross-examines, and this raises further questions.
Years ago, I had a close friend who served as a member of a jury for a lengthy murder trial. He told me it was an experience he wouldn’t wish on anyone, and that it altered his life–leaving him with sleepless nights and ulcers. Decades later, he is still haunted by the verdict. Many of the things he told me came back to me as I watched The Jury–these are twelve people–regular, ordinary people–dragged from their usual routines and problems and told to focus on a case that will decide the fate of a man who may–or may not–have taken the life of another. The background stories of the jurors were all quite fascinating–with the exception of the seminary student–his story didn’t really seem to add anything to the film. The film depicts the jurors as people who have many problems in their lives–debt, unhappy marriages, loneliness, addiction and a crisis of faith, and yet these problems must be checked at the door each day as the trial begins. Participation on the jury means many things to the participants–some see it as a welcome responsibility–others as a liability or a citizen’s duty. No one takes it lightly, however. It’s both inevitable and unavoidable that these twelve people bring their own beliefs, experiences, and prejudices to the final verdict. The Jury is riveting entertainment, and it’s the marvelous, haunting ending resonates long after its conclusion.