Metro Weekly

‘The Confessions of Frannie Langton’ Review: Dangerous Liaisons

Britbox's 'The Confessions of Frannie Langton' is a haunting miniseries that unfolds with a gorgeous seriousness of purpose.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton - Photo: Britbox
The Confessions of Frannie Langton – Photo: Britbox

It’s the early months of 1826 in London — about seven years before England’s Slavery Abolition Act went into effect — and a Jamaican woman, enslaved through murky circumstances, has woken up in the bed of her lover, an English white woman, to the sound of constables storming into the room in an apparent effort to arrest her.

The revelation of their affair to authorities turns out to be the least of her worries as she attempts to rouse her lover from slumber, only to realize she’s not going to wake up and they’re both soaked in her blood.

I am not particularly a fan of queer romances that end in death — a well-worn trope that has become especially exhausting as handled in unfamiliar hands — but the opening scene of The Confessions of Frannie Langton (★★★★☆) is unquestionably gripping, the spark of well-struck flint that quickly catches fire and burns slowly with great satisfaction all the way through this four-part miniseries based on the 2019 historical fiction novel of the same name by Jamaican-born British-Caymanian writer Sara Collins, her brilliant debut.

Like any great mystery, the central question is only answered through the begetting and resolution of numerous other curiosities, some more chilling than others. What carries this story so capably is the textured performance of Karla-Simone Spence in the title role, a measured navigation through grief, anger, and extraordinary patience with the incredulity of her white counterparts.

Frannie is unusually well-read for anyone, let alone an enslaved woman, and her unyielding confidence earned through that rare education manages to provoke ire from her racist housekeeper Linux (Pooky Quesnel) and simmering attraction from lady-of-the-house Madame Marguerite Benham (Sophie Cookson).

Frannie is an irresistible character: neither saint nor villain, she is wonderfully human, occupied by, and persevering through, the frailties and frustrations in response to what could be a central thesis of the show, uttered to her as a child by her mother before she was taken away: “Listen to me: mind yourself… not one damn thing more dangerous than a white woman when she get bored.”

That particular boredom courses through the narrative, from the aristocrat who takes Frannie under her wing for self-absorbed instruction to the aforementioned Linux, overcome with resentment and pettiness toward Frannie, to Marguerite, who plays with fire and has a bad habit of erroneously finding herself relatable to Frannie on the basis that they both happen to be women.

It’s that first strand that forms the skeleton of the narrative: a slaver, George Benham (Stephen Campbell Moore), and his wife, Marguerite, quasi-adopt enslaved Black children, Frannie and Laddie (a magnificent Patrick Martins), and raise them with a quality education, ostensibly to provide cover for George’s atrocities against the enslaved struggling under his cruelty.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton - Photo: Britbox
The Confessions of Frannie Langton – Photo: Britbox

If George can take credit for the success and happiness of these two enslaved persons, both now fully grown, he will use them as a shield against criticism. The abolitionist movement in England was decades ahead of the United States, and George must prevent the threat of accountability in their changing culture. The potential revelation of those horrific atrocities dangles like a sword above George, and we find out that Frannie is wrapped up in them with shocking complexity.

This is a sumptuous period piece, complete with all the exquisite set and costume design guaranteed to make your mouth water. Think Downton Abbey with an honest (but not cloying) meditation on misogynoir wrapped up in a murder mystery that runs through a queer women romance.

There are so many ways this could have gone wrong, but director Andrea Harkin and Collins, who adapted the series from her novel, have avoided pitfalls and produced a brilliant and haunting miniseries that unfolds with a gorgeous seriousness of purpose.

As the viewer gets closer to answers and the romance between Frannie and Marguerite comes into sharper focus — and delectably so — there is an authenticity present that could rival any love story, complete with the skepticism of others who simply cannot bear to believe these two would love each other.

It’s one of Frannie’s quotes at the end of the first episode that has so firmly stuck to my insides since watching and captures so many facets of the story: “I let myself want something, and I let myself imagine she might want it, too.”

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is streaming exclusively on Britbox, which has a free introductory trial period ($7.99 a month thereafter), and is available on all popular streaming services, including Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, and online. Visit

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