Monday, 29 August 2022

Pieces of Her (2022)

This Netflix 8-part mini-series is a crime story with elements of whodunit thrown in, thrills and spills! Based on the book by Karin Slaughter it has been produced here by writer Charlotte Stoudt - and an excellent job she has done.

We follow the life of Laura Oliver and her daughter Andy as initially our job is to try and unpick the complex relationship which exists between them, why Andy appears to be so bitter towards her mum yet devoted and loving too. As you would expect, there are reveals all along the way as the audience is doled out various snippets of information, via flashbacks and current events.

Laura is played by the always-excellent Toni Collette (Nightmare Alley, Unbelievable, I'm Thinking of Ending Things, Stowaway) who shines here, steals the show and gives us a delightful, rich and full performance. She is terrifically convincing and pulls out all the stops when emotional expression is demanded. Bella Heathcote (Dark Shadows, Relic) is not far behind with another excellent performance as Andy, mostly convincing with the material - and attractive to watch.

The third stand-out performance for me was by Jessica Barden (The End of the F***ing World, The Lobster, Hanna) who plays Laura as a younger woman via plenty of flashbacks, as the story is filled out and reveals lined up. I think she's also very impressive, the Brit actress who already has a huge body of work behind her, starting out in her early days on Coronation Street!

The first few episodes bombard the viewer with much confusion in an apparently complex plot which only starts to sort itself out from about halfway through the episodes. Rest assured though, hang on in there and the threads do come together with the reveals and surprises nicely paced to keep the viewer interested and alert. But you need to pay attention so as to not miss key elements!

It's quite hard to say what's going on without introducing spoilers, but at the outset, we're presented with Laura, who's been married to Gordon (who is not Andy's father but appears to have been present for much of Andy's life before his divorce with Laura) trying hard to connect with Andy who seems happy to float along through life with not much ambition. 

Although the show is indeed about relationships, that's not the main story here which is more about how they all got to where they are, Laura's upbringing by a controlling and abusive father - alongside a manipulative brother as she tries to escape the clutches of the powerful and monied family, how this now impacts Andy and how much she knows about the past which Laura seems reluctant to share fully.

Back in the day, the young version of Laura had a boyfriend called Nick who her father hugely disapproved of as he was not business-minded and money-orientated like him, but rather more of an activist against the capitalism rife in America, trying to make a stand for different values and unpick capitalism. Most of the coverage of Nick is executed via flashbacks during his time with the young Laura as he tries to draw her away from the family and into his world. I've said enough! Watch and enjoy the unfolding.

There are some 'unlikely' decisions made by some of the characters during the process, putting themselves into situations of silly danger (especially when Andy goes 'on the run' in one part of the show) which most people would not consider in real life, but I guess that's the nature of thrillers! It doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the show or from being on the edge of your seat now and again!

It's very nicely shot and produced, the supporting acting by most is very well done and the storyline is interesting and often thrilling. Karin Slaughter is one of those crime writers that I'm aware of, in the same bracket as Val McDermid, so you can expect a well-constructed/paced plot, gripping turns and outcomes. Very nicely done all round. Watch and enjoy the three main leads. Recommended.

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